We often go to the extremes when we talk about spicing up a quite bland relationship. We think about taking a day off and escaping to a romantic getaway with our partner or sneak time to bring up the heat in bed. Oftentimes, we tend to overlook the simple things that can ignite relationships – and the solution may be found right at your fingertips. Literally.
Yes, the simplest act of holding your partner’s hand can create a deeper connection and stir an instant intimacy between the two of you. Humans are creatures of comfort, and there’s a scientific reason why you reach for your partner’s hand when you get upset, scared, or needy of attention. No matter what technique you use, whether it’s interlocking fingers or cupping palms over the other’s, we all know how good it feels to fit your hand into your loved ones.
The simple and sweet gesture has the power to affect your brain and physical well-being, which also positively impacts your relationship. Backed by science, here are some of the benefits of holding hands that will make you want to reach for your partner’s hands right now.
When we’re stressed, we mindlessly reach for our loved one’s hand and suddenly we feel better. The science behind this is that hand touch can decrease the level of the stress hormone called cortisol, according to Matt Hertenstein, an experimental psychologist at DePauw University in Indiana.
The skin gets more sensitive when cortisol rushes through the bloodstream. Since a large concentration of nerve endings is contained inside the fingertips and palms, a light touch on our hand can ease the strain, both physically and mentally.
The stress-busting power of hand touch does not limit to your significant other. Even the touch of a friend, teammate, or parent can make you feel at ease when you’re going through a stressful event.
Next to relieving stress, lending a hand also helps when your partner is currently in pain. We, humans, have the natural tendency to tighten our muscles when enduring pain and we often need to touch other people to help ease the discomfort. We used to squeeze our mother’s hand during a quite painful syringe session. Likewise, most husbands hold their wife’s hands as she goes through labor. So if your partner is suffering from pain, whether physical or emotional, let them grasp your hand to make them feel better.
Yes, we’re talking about the muscular organ which pumps blood through the blood vessels of the circulatory system. Clasping hands leads to a comfortable sensation that is conducive to your heart health. As we’ve mentioned, holding hands helps lower the blood pressure, which is a great step to lowering risk of heart disease.
Remember the horror film with watched with your partner? You immediately held your partner’s hand and squeezed it gently when the scary scene with the demon nun came up. You also tend to hold your partner’s hand whenever you were walking in the strange streets late at night to feel safer and more secure.
Simple hand holding combats feelings of fear and provides a sense of security and safety. The human brain responds to sudden stimulation (which gets the blood pumping and releases high levels of cortisol) using adrenaline. When we get scared during threatening situations, our natural reflexes tell us to hold hands with someone we trust to fight off the nerves.
Human touch triggers the release of “oxytocin” in the brain (source: UCLA). Oxytocin, a.k.a love hormone, is a neurotransmitter responsible for increasing feelings of trust, generosity, and compassion, and for reducing feelings of anxiety.
And when we talk about human touch, holding hands is one of the most powerful forms, says Dr. Tiffany Field of Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami/ Miller School of Medicine. She explains that when fingers are interlaced with someone’s, they stimulate pressure receptors that trigger the vagal activity. When there’s pressure, the heart rate and blood pressure go down, putting you in a relaxed state.
Couples in happy and healthy relationships hold hands naturally, sometimes even without noticing. When the gesture becomes a habit developed by the nervous system, it can strengthen empathy and communication between partners in a relationship.
Carmina Natividad is one of the writers for The Relationship Room, a couples psychology institution specializing in relationship counseling and therapies for couples and families. When she’s not using her pen in writing self-help articles focused on love, dating, and relationships, she spends her time creating poems and screenplays, painting, and making music.