We come into the world with a burning need to be touched and that need travels with us from the cradle to the grave. Of all the five senses, the most important one is touch. A simple touch can soothe a child, comfort a loved one or calm an anxious infant.

As babies, it was through touch that we made sense of the world. Study after study has shown that touch is not just important to a baby’s development but it is also crucial to its survival. Premature babies who are regularly stroked and touched develop and go home sooner than preterm infants who are not touched. Healthy infants deprived of touch, even when they are getting adequate nutrition, will fail to develop properly. Most hospitals with neonatal intensive care units have therapists on staff to introduce nurturing touch to infants.

Elderly people who receive regular massages have less depression, experience better physical coordination and have more energy. Geriatric massage is a growing field and many nursing homes and assisted living facilities have massage therapists on staff. Therapeutic touch has also been shown to reduce the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease such as restlessness, pacing, vocalization, searching and tapping.

Several studies have concluded that animals that are regularly stroked and petted develop larger brains, stronger bones and muscles and healthier immune systems than animals that are not touched when they are young. Anyone who has ever cuddled a kitten in their lap can vouch for the calming effect it has on humans. One recent study looked at people recovering from a heart attack and found that those who had the fewest second attacks were people who had pets. Whether it's your own pet, or a friend's, petting an animal will take your mind off your worries and generally make you feel good.

The healing power of touch is so well documented that schools of nursing offer courses on the topic. It wasn't too long ago that touch therapy was struggling for acceptance in the medical world. Today it is very common for health providers to recommend massage therapy as part of an integrated treatment plan.

Our innate need to be touched, along with the scientific research documenting the benefits, has contributed to the growing popularity of therapies that involve touch such as massage, reiki and acupressure. In recent years, a form of touch therapy called “body psychotherapy” has emerged as an effective treatment for people who have faced physical or emotional trauma. This form of therapy combines touch and verbal reassurance.

Touch is simple, yet can have profound effects on our physical and mental health. Even a simple hug can have a significant impact on both the giver and the receiver. Explore ways to celebrate the power of touch in your own life. You’ll be glad you did.

Author's Bio: 

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