kids huging

Reach Out and Touch Someone: The Health Benefits of Compassion

Knowing that someone cares about you can have all kinds of psychological and physiological benefits. Demonstrations of care and concern may help you emotionally cope when under stress, inspire you to follow through on medical advice, and even boost your immune system. Support doesn’t just have to come from your best friend or your mom to be effective.

Small acts of thoughtfulness from caregivers, medical practitioners, and even strangers can reach out and help. While it’s no secret that providing words of support and encouragement can help someone out in a time of emotional need, studies have shown the benefits of adding physical touch to those comforting communications can actually make you better.

Skin-to-skin, or kangaroo care, encourages parents to hold their babies on their chest with as much skin-to-skin contact as possible. This has been shown to help parents and baby bond with each other, encourage a better breastfeeding experience for both mom and baby, as well as reduce stress, stabilize baby’s heart rate and breathing, and assist with baby’s weight gain and growth.

A hug can be given pretty much everywhere, which is great news because hugs can go a long way to improve your health. Hugs provide comfort and stress release – you know the difference a great hug can make when you’re having a bad day? Science suggests that hugs may boost the immune system. Similar to the cause and effect in our blog post Massage Therapy Can Boost Your Immunity, it’s possible that when a hug causes you to relax your body experiences a drop in cortisol, the stress-induced, immunity-suppressing hormone. Other forms of therapeutic touch have been examined in medical practice, especially when used by nurses to calm anxious patients. Both massage and therapeutic touch treatments have demonstrated the capability to decrease depression and anxiety in clinical treatment. Patients who are comfortable and feel secure may heal faster and experience less pain.

Studies have also demonstrated the power of simpler physical contact, such as touching someone’s shoulder or arm while in conversation. One study in particular found that general practitioners reported that if they provided a gentle touch to a patient while asking them to promise to follow medical advice, that group of patients was more likely to uphold their promise versus those asked with words only.

When someone physically shows you that they care about you, you feel better. And in many cases you feel better because you are better. Keep in mind that we all have the power to help someone by showing them we care, whether it’s a high five or warm embrace.

To experience the benefits of massage therapy and other therapeutic touch for yourself, call Wilson Health Services at 519-624-8000 ot visit and find out how our team can help support your best health.

Therapeutic effects of massage therapy and handling touch on caregivers of patients undergoing autologous hematopoietic stem cell transplant.
Does hugging provide stress-buffering social support? A study of susceptibility to upper respiratory infection and illness.
Reducing anxiety: the employment of Therapeutic Touch as a nursing intervention.
The effect of a practitioner’s touch on a patient’s medication compliance.