To touch is to give life


When I was a little person and even into my teenage years I would always kiss mum and dad goodnight before I went to bed.

I had no hesitation in kissing my mum. Her skin was soft, her cheeks plump and warm and she welcomed my touch with open arms. My dad on the other hand was a different proposition. His face was prickly, his cheeks a bit thin and he was often stiff and a bit formal. He didn’t openly show much emotion and I was never sure what he was thinking. Did he want a kiss goodnight, did he care either way or did he feel uncomfortable with the outward reveal of emotion. Despite my hesitation I intuitively felt that it was the right thing to do, so I always ended up giving him a kiss. I didn’t want dad to feel left out or even worse, think that I loved mum more than him

I am now 52 and dad is 84 and not much has changed, except I don’t hesitate to give him a big hug and a kiss on the cheek whenever I see him. He is still as stiff as a board (it is like hugging cement) but I know he loves it by the big grin on his face when I pull away.

To touch is to give life!

I know that touch is imperative to happiness.

Touch signals safety and trust, it boosts health, reduces stress and connects us with others, which is vital to our social and emotional well-being.

Here is a snap shot of some of the results from recent studies on touch:

  • Touching premature babies boosts their weight gain by 47%
  • Students who had their back touched in a friendly way by a teacher were twice as likely to speak out in the classroom
  • Medical doctors who make eye contact or pat their patients on the back are starting to find greater survival rates in those with complex diseases
  • Touching patients with Alzheimer’s disease leads to a drop in their depressive symptoms
  • When people connect through touch they are more likely to treat others with compassion and kindness

Touch is our primary language of compassion

I never realized how much could be conveyed by simply touching someone. Consider this study; two strangers were separated by a barrier. One was asked to stick their arm through the barrier whilst the other person touched their arm. The person touching the arm had two seconds to convey a particular emotion via that touch.

Given the number of emotions being considered, the odds of guessing the right emotion by chance were about eight percent. But remarkably, participants guessed compassion correctly nearly 60 percent of the time. They also guessed correctly gratitude, anger, love and fear more than 50 percent of the time.

The best result however, was when a woman tried to communicate anger to a man, he got zero right (he had no idea what she was doing). And when a man tried to communicate compassion to a woman, she didn’t know what was going on either!

Touch is vital to happiness

I loved reading about the above study; it made me marvel at how vital my hands are to happiness. They allow me to give someone a pat on the back, a caress on the arm, a touch to the face, guidance across a busy road or a big hug. I won’t take these everyday gestures for granted any more as I know they are far more profound than I ever thought they were. I am also glad my childhood intuition prompted me to keep connecting with my dad. These simple touches are our primary language of compassion and a key to our happiness.

As you go through your week can I encourage you to become aware of how many times you touch someone or someone touches you. If you live by yourself or you have friends who live by themselves they could go days without touch from another human being!

I always try to make sure I give people a hug who I know could be touch deprived. It’s my way of connecting and spreading a bit of happiness.

Be happy, colour the world.



  1. I agree Claire, it seems this should be all- intuitive as you say. When you work with vulnerable/sick people and take the time to be aware, it is obvious. Loving your blogs, thanks

    • Julie, thanks so much for popping in and leaving a comment. The positive power of touch on vulnerable and sick people astounds me and I bet you see this often if you work in this area.

  2. Nikki Smith says

    I was immediately drawn into your blog today CB as, as you well know, I am a toucher. I touch everything. Clothes and fabrics in shops, animals, plants, and people. I am a hugger and a toucher and a feeler. I wear my heart on my sleeve and I am unapologetically affectionate. I believe it is usually easy to read people and to know if they are open to my method of communication or not, but if I love you, look out, as I will usually shower you with hugs. I thoroughly enjoyed the information and reflection about studies in this area. It was really great to learn that what we do intuitively, actually has a purpose for all participants. Your blog made me happy. I am sitting here smiling. Mission accomplished. Great job you XXXX

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