- Holding the hand of someone you trust has a positive impact on the stress response
- Physical touch boosts oxytocin production to foster a sense of social bonding
- READ MORE: The ‘hug hormone’ could improve bone health and muscle fitness
Whether you think it’s romantic or cheesy, holding hands serves an important purpose for our mental health, experts have claimed.
The act of linking fingers with a romantic interest dampens the “threat” signals sent by the brain when we feel we are alone.
The safety of a comrade through physical contact. Modulates the brain’s response to stressful situations.
According to James Coan, a psychologist at the University of Virginia, ‘For the human brain, the world presents a series of problems to solve.
“And it turns out that being alone is a problem.”
Holding hands can reduce stress hormones and slow your heart rate as the brain releases signals that calm the nervous system.
Holding hands is a crucial part of human bonding that babies instinctively do when new mothers touch their palms.
The hands are loaded with sensitive nerve fibers that connect to the brain’s vagus nerve, the epicenter of our parasympathetic nervous system.
This system monitors a wide range of crucial body functions, including mood control, immune response, digestion, and heart rate.
Physical contact in the form of holding hands, hugging, and cuddling also causes the release of feel-good chemicals in the brain, such as oxytocin and serotonin, which help people feel connected to each other.
Holding hands is an instinctive act from birth to hold on to our mothers more easily. A newborn baby will reflexively grasp when you touch his palm.
James Coan set out to determine the positive effects that holding a loved one’s hand has on the brain in stressful situations.
In a study involving 16 married women who were told they would receive an electric shock, those who held a stranger’s hand saw a reduction in the brain’s response to the threat according to scans.
The feeling of relief was even greater when the women took their husbands’ hands.
The happier couples said they were in their relationships, the more their partner’s hand cushioned the brain’s response to shock.
He also concluded that the absence of such a connection triggers a notable change in brain activity.
Pressure on highly sensitive palms turns on pressure-sensitive nerve endings in the skin.
These nerve endings send signals to the vagus nerve, which, in turn, it conducts signals to the hypothalamus, which is capable of reducing heart rate and blood pressure, mediating the body’s response to stress.
At the same time, hold hands. boosts oxytocin production. This “love hormone” helps strengthen bonding and social connection, something humans need to thrive.
Oxytocin can also raise a person’s pain threshold and decrease inflammation in the body.
An independent study conducted in 2021 found that holding someone’s hand in a moment of stress can decrease cortisol levelsalso known as the stress hormone.
Researchers reported that people who gave each other comforting touches or received hugs from another person had lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol than those who did not.
This was especially true after a stressful situation in which they felt judged by others.