A Simple Trick to Boost Your Health at Any Age

No matter how 'healthy' you are when it comes to diet or exercise, there is one simple habit that will improve your overall health. And the good news is:

  1. It's free

  2. It feels good

  3. Your family and friends can benefit too

It's what scientists refer to as 'non-noxious sensory stimulation'. Or touch, of the pleasurable kind. Many kinds of touching all have beneficial health effects:

  • hugging

  • stroking

  • massage

  • holding hands

  • consensual sex

  • pat on the back

  • high five / fist bump

Pretty much any kind of touch that is carried out in a loving, friendly way is good for us. Recently, there have been a number of studies to work out why this is the case. And it boils down to oxytocin, a hormone that has far reaching consequences in our bodies. As infants, oxytocin release is triggered during natural birth. Another dose comes with skin to skin contact after birth, and during nursing. Oxytocin is released in both mother and infant, and gives to both a long list of benefits. Researchers have been delving deeper into what those benefits are and how they work. Simply put, Oxytocin, sometimes called the 'love chemical' because of the feeling of relaxed well-being it generates, gives some surprising benefits:

  • lower blood pressure

  • reduced inflammation

  • reduced cortisol

  • better gastrointestinal function, leading to better growth

  • faster healing

  • better responses to stress

  • improved mood

It turns out that Oxytocin is released into the circulatory system, as well as into the brain. The effects can last up to thirty minutes from a single dose. And after multiple doses, these effects can last for up to three weeks. Older adults often suffer doubly from lack of Oxytocin - over time, our skin's sensivity reduces, meaning that we need more stimulation aged 90 to produce the same effect we experienced aged 20. But many older adults live alone, and do not have access to gentle touch, from hand holding to hugging, that would brighten their lives, literally. Research published in 2014 also discovered that the act of stroking a pet, like a cat or dog, triggered  oxytocin release in both human and pet. So take a stand today, for your own health, and that of everyone dear to you. Reach out and touch them. Give them a hug and let them know their health is important to you.

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