The Power of Touch

I’m a hugger.  I admit it.  It’s almost a reflex when I see someone I like or admire.

In the 1970’s I taught 3rd grade.  It was common for some students to run up, throw their arms around my waist and give me a big hug.  We teachers would always hug back.  When a student got hurt or was in distress a hug was automatic.  Our cultural climate has changed and teachers are no longer suppose to touch, much less hug, students.  Our cultural climate is continuing to change and unwanted, unwarranted “hugs” are rightly being brought out into the open and condemned.

So I share this information from the work of Alex Korb, UCLA neuroscientist author of The Upward Spiral: Using Neuroscience to Reverse the Course of Depression, One Small Change at a Time  with the acknowledgement that we should only be touching others who want to be touched.

Got someone to hug? Go for it. Alex Korb,  says ‘A hug, especially a long one, releases a neurotransmitter and hormone oxytocin, which reduces the reactivity of the amygdala.”

“Hand holding, pats on the back, and handshakes work, too. Korb cites a study in which subjects whose hands were held by their partners experienced a reduced level of anxiety while waiting for an expected electrical shock from researchers. “The brain showed reduced activation in both the anterior cingulate cortex and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex — that is, less activity in the pain and worrying circuits.”’

And if you have no one handy to touch, guess what? Massage has also been shown to be an effective way to get your oxytocin flowing, and it reduces stress hormones and increases your dopamine levels. Win win.

Mousey Masseuse by Peggy

The value of touching shouldn’t be overlooked when you’re down. According to Korb:

“In fact, as demonstrated in an fMRI [functional magnetic imaging] experiment, social exclusion activates the same circuitry as physical pain . . .”

The next time you see me HUG AWAY!





8 comments on “The Power of Touch

  1. Thank you for this wonderful and yet serious post about hugging, massage. – about touch.
    About hormones produced and the healing effect. I do believe and know this to be true.
    Reading your About page I spotted a book I will order on Neuroscience.
    Fascinating subject and very important.

    Thanks to your dear dog from me….and to the cat.😊


    • Miriam,
      I love understanding why certain things help, and so I read a lot. I think it is easier to do things for ourselves if we have a solid reason for thinking it have a benefit. We only listed books we love, and hope you will love the book as well.


  2. And when you see me, you may hug and I’ll be pleased.

    But I do think it’s sad that teachers are no longer able to hug their students. That’s a missing element for very young children, though I understand why the rules have changed.


  3. I am such a believer in the power of touch and I love hugging those I love, like or am even fond of. It is so much preferable to me than shaking hands or kissing on the cheek. But I do think that being “physical” is something that runs in families and some are and some are not. I was surprised to read that teachers are not allowed to hug kids anymore in the U.S. I get it… but it just seems so sad that a thing so basic and so comforting and so conveying of empathy as a hug, has been “banned” .

    Massage has been shown to work absolute wonders with babies, animals, seniors…. everyone can benefit. I am a big fan. Definitely one of the reasons I like living in Asia, I can get one once a week without guilt or breaking the bank. 🙂

    Terrific post



    • Peta,
      I do think if you are raised with huggers you will probably be a hugger, too. My family experience taught me that it is also cultural. I didn’t grow up as a hugger, although I always hugged my kids. But as the culture seems to change, I hugged my friends and family more and more. My kids always hugged their friends. It was a new trick this old dog was happy to learn (although I was a much younger dog when I started hugging a lot).


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