Premature babies and touch
In one study, underweight premature babies received special attention. For ten days the infants were given three fifteen minute massages. Warm gentle hands lightly stroked the babies from head to foot and gently exercised the arms and legs. Weight gain is a critical factor in the survival of a premature baby and even though the touched babies consumed the same number of calories as the untouched babies they gained on average 50% more weight per day.
In addition, the stimulated babies had more efficient metabolisms and were able to go home on average six days earlier. Up to a year later they had maintained their growth advantage and had better mental and physical abilities. And all from ten days of therapeutic touch.
Touch not just for kids
Astounding as this is, touch is vital in adults as well as infants. A caring touch or even an accidental brush it seems can lift our spirits. In one study people who had spent no longer than fifteen minutes in a library were asked by researchers how they rated their enjoyment of their time in the library. People who had brushed hands ‘accidentally’, with the planted librarian reported a more enjoyable time. Presumably the touch would have been subliminal.
Standoffishness - what is it with the English?
How much we touch is partly driven by our cultural and family backgrounds. In the 1960’s psychologist Sidney Jourard roamed cafés in the US, England, France and Puerto Rico observing couples for a minimum of one hour. He tallied up the number of touches between couples in these various countries. He found that an average couple in Puerto Rico touched 180 times in one hour, in France it was 120, in the USA it was twice and in good old England the couples never touched! Perhaps things have changed since.
A great excuse for a massage
So, if you don’t have someone close and affectionate in your life what then? Well it seems that having regular massage can also offer advantages. People report feeling more relaxed and alert, happier and more comfortable after receiving a massage. If you are relaxed and have been touched tenderly you’ll have more spare capacity to work and live more effectively. So massage is not self indulgence then!
We may even get benefits from imagining a loving hug. One public speaker friend of mine imagines hugging his young daughter before commencing large presentations. He swears by this, saying that it gives him confidence and comfort.
Stay in touch!
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