The power of touch
It may seem obvious but touch and hugging has great benefits to not only children but also adults.
A study by researchers in the University of British Columbia shows that the amount of close and comforting contact that young infants get doesn't just keep them warm and snug but actually changes their DNA/genes and those effects can last for years.
Parents of new-born babies were asked to keep diaries of their touching and cuddling habits from five weeks after birth, as well as logging the behaviour of the infants – sleeping, crying, and so on.
Four-and-a-half years later, DNA swabs were taken of the children. The researchers found DNA differences between "high-contact" children and "low-contact" children at five DNA sites, two of which were within genes. These changes related to the immune system, the metabolic system and the biological ageing of blood and tissue. All lower than expected in the children who hadn't had much contact as babies, and had experienced more distress in their early years.
In separate initiatives, kangaroo care has been implemented for premature and full-term infants in various hospitals around the world. Kangaroo care involves holding a naked baby (wearing a nappy only) upright against the bare chest of the carrier.
Lots of benefits:
For parents, it promotes attachment and bonding, improves parental confidence, lowers anxiety and helps to promote increased milk production and breastfeeding success.
For baby, it resulted in normalised temperature, heart rate, and respiratory rate, increased weight gain, fewer hospital-acquired infections, improved cognitive development, decreased stress levels, reduced pain responses, normalized growth, sleep patterns and positive effects on motor development.
For health services, reduced hospital stays, reduced need for expensive healthcare technology, increased parental involvement and teaching opportunities.
What about adults?
Neuroscientist, Jim Coan, gave 16 married women a very mild electric shock while they held either their husband’s hand, a male stranger’s hand, or no hand at all, he found that the subjects who hands were held received immediate relief. This was clearly reflected on their brain scans.
While the touch from a stranger did help calm their nerves, the greatest relief was observed if the touch was from their husband, especially if the two shared a high-quality marriage.
UC Berkeley researchers have discovered that hormone oxytocin is indispensable for healthy muscle maintenance and repair, and that in mice it declines with age. Oxytocin is sometimes referred to as the “trust hormone” because of its association with romance and friendship. It is released with a warm hug, a grasped hand or a loving gaze. The hormone kicks into high gear during and after childbirth, helping new mothers bond with and breastfeed their new babies.
Here's some ways to make a difference (to you as well):
Hug your partner and children every day
Touch their hands, arms or heads when you’re speaking to them. Affectionate touch helps strengthen your ties and conveys trust.
Give them unexpected hugs and kisses. Remember that even a gentle tap on the back can help strengthen your connection.
Touch sends a powerful message – it can do and say much more than words ever could.
If touch is so powerful between people, meditate on the power of the touch of Jesus. God touching people. God touching you.
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Geoff Knott, 10/01/2018