Hand-Holding is Both Cute and Curative

Does holding hands with your sweetie put a smile on your face? New research is showing us that this affectionate act has even deeper effects on our mind and bodies. Not only does physical touch improve bonding and unleash happy chemicals in our brains, but it could also help us get through periods of suffering.

Who knows—in the future, instead of saying “take two and call me in the morning” doctors will end up saying “take the hand of your beloved and you’ll feel better instantly.”

Researchers from the University of Colorado Boulder and University of Haifa published a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) that documented their findings on a phenomenon called “interpersonal synchronization,” or what happens when we mirror another person’s physiological experiences. Twenty-two heterosexual couples were put into electroencephalography (EEG) caps and observed in a variety of short scenarios: sitting in separate rooms, sitting while holding hands and sitting apart from one another and not touching. The scenarios were then repeated while one partner was subjected to heat on their arm, causing mild pain and discomfort.

What they found was fascinating: merely being near each other sparked some brain wave synchronicity with the type of brain waves associated with focused attention. Touch through hand holding increased this response. Inversely, if one of the participants were feeling pain, the “coupling” of their brain waves with their partner would decrease if their partner couldn’t touch them.

“It appears that pain totally interrupts this interpersonal synchronization between couples and touch brings it back,” lead author Pavel Goldstein told Science Daily. Further testing showed that the more empathic the pain-free partner was to their loved one’s discomfort, the more that discomfort subsided in the other subject.

The concept of the “healing touch,” or touch-induced analgesia, appears to be very real. Even though further studies are needed to broaden understanding of these effects, it’s safe to say that the ability to receive empathy and comforting touch from a loved one can make a significant difference in both emotional security and physical comfort.

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Photo credit: Thinkstock


Val P
Val P3 months ago


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Marie W
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Thank you for posting

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Jenny G
Jenny G11 months ago

I really enjoy holding hands with my partner!