10 Surprising Benefits of Holding Hands with a Loved One
One of the most basic and universal forms of affection is the act of holding hands. In fact, University of Virginia psychology professor James Coan has dedicated a whole college class to exploring why we do it. He says that humans hold hands for many reasons, but chief among them is the sense of security we get when we are holding someone else’s hand. A sense that we are not alone and that we belong.
Relish relationship experts base all their coaching on evidence-based research like the work Coan is doing. Studies show that beyond the sense of security, hand holding has tremendous benefits for individuals and for couples. Grab your partner’s hand and start your free seven day trial to learn about more science-backed ways to deepen your connection.
Take a look at the surprising benefits holding hands with someone you love offers both of you.
1. Provides a Sense of Security
According to Professor Coan, “humans are adapted to each other not unlike the way that salamanders are adapted to cool, dark damp environments. We are each other’s habitat.” Holding hands creates a sense of grounding and reassurance that we belong in this human-to-human habitat. When we feel unsure, it provides immediate feedback that we are accepted and that we belong.
2. Decreases Stress
Comforting physical touch can immediately reduce stress. Studies found when people in stressful situations held their partner’s hand, their heart rate and blood pressure were lowered. Their cortisol (stress hormone) level was also significantly reduced. Reaching for a loved one’s hand is a natural reaction when you’re anxious and doing so calms you down.
3. Boosts Oxytocin
Holding hands also makes you feel good. Physical touch with a partner like cuddling, hugging, and hand holding triggers the release of oxytocin. Oxytocin is often called “the love hormone” because it is released during an orgasm. Hand holding offers a smaller release of the hormone and can help strengthen feelings of closeness and connection outside the bedroom.
4. Strengthens Your Bond
Oxytocin is associated with feelings of empathy, compassion, and trust. These are some of the very emotions crucial to building a strong and lasting partnership. Holding hands with your partner regularly strengthens your connection and encourages the development of those essential feelings.
Couples who approach one another with empathy and trust experience greater overall satisfaction in their relationship. Learning how to communicate with empathy can take time. Let Relish help you with one-on-one coaching, personalized advice and more. Try our award winning relationship app free for one week! Download now to start your free trial.
5. Relieves Pain
There are two parts of their brain responsible for sensing and responding to physical pain. One place (the somatosensory cortex) recognizes the facts of pain while the other part (the posterior insula) is responsible for the emotional aspect of pain. The facts of pain can’t be altered, but the emotional aspect can be changed with… holding hands!
Physical touch, especially empathetic touch like hand holding, has been shown to reduce the experience of pain. Reaching for your partner’s hand when you are in distress helps you experience less discomfort and greater security.
6. A Language of Love
Physical touch is one of the five love languages developed by relationship expert Dr. Gary Chapman. People with this love language feel loved (and often express their love) through physical touch with their partner. Hand holding is a simple, readily available way to show your partner that you love and value them.
The five languages are widely accepted as core ways that people offer and receive love. Knowing your love language and the preferred love language of your partner can help strengthen your relationship. Relish’s personal relationship coaches can help you identify your love language and discover other tools to build a strong, long-lasting union. Ready to get started? Install now.
7. Heart Healthy
Holding hands can reduce blood pressure and lower your heart rate. Both of these factors can contribute to lower stress and greater overall heart health. People who can maintain lower heart rates and blood pressure experience fewer heart related health episodes overtime. The loving touch of holding your partner’s hand might actually save your life!
8. Soothes Anxiety
When humans are anxious our bodies and minds can be in a perpetual state of fear. In an anxious episode, people experience the flight, fight, or freeze state. Heart rates increase, breathing becomes quick and shallow, cortisol levels increase, and blood pressure rises. All of these factors can contribute to poor physical and mental health. Physical touch, like holding hands, can soothe anxiety before it becomes overwhelming.
9. Counteracts Loneliness
As UVA professor James Coan believes the underlying reason why people hold hands is the sense of belonging and security that holding hands offers. It is entirely possible for people to feel alone even when they are in the presence of others. Holding the hand of another person provides immediate physical feedback that interrupts that feeling of loneliness and replaces it with feelings of acceptance, belonging, and love.
10. Syncs Brain Waves
Finally, scientists found that a couple’s brainwaves can sync up when they are touching—but most dramatically when they are holding hands. Synced brainwaves mean partners feel a greater sense of connection and empathy for one another. These emotions are fundamental for a strong intimate relationship. Couples could even identify the emotion their partner was feeling or the message they wished to communicate through touch alone.
In fact, touch is it’s own language that can be perceived and read by the receiver. The following hand holding styles hold unique, communicable meanings:
- Loosely intertwined fingers: endearment and security
- Wrapping hands: strong and protective bond
- Firm hold: taking charge in the relationship
- Interlaced finger: sense of need and love for the other
- Hand on top: feelings of protection for the other
- Relaxed interlocked fingers: fun and flirtatious relationship
- Holding wrist: passionate relationship
Holding hands is an essential part of a secure relationship. It allows couples to communicate love, trust, and empathy as well as promote physical health, reduce pain and stress, and build intimacy.
Build on the benefits of hand holding and strengthen your relationship with the help of Relish’s qualified relationship coaches whom you can text for one-to-one advice, take therapist-approved quizzes about communication, conflict, intimacy and more.
Let Relish hold your hand through the ups and downs (but mostly ups) of your journey towards a better you, a better relationship, and a happier life! Click here to get started for free!