By Eric Barker
August 16, 2016
IDEAS
Barker is the author of Barking Up The Wrong Tree

You drastically underestimate the power of touch. Actually, I’m wrong…

The research says we’re really big on touching — our phones, that is. People touch their phones 85 times a day.

But how many times a day do you touch someone else? Probably not nearly as often. That’s kinda messed up, don’t ya think?

You need to touch people more. It will improve your life. Sound like Hallmark-Card-bumper-sticker-hippie-nonsense? Wrong.

What happens when babies are deprived of touch? It can screw them up for life. As David Linden, professor of neuroscience at Johns Hopkins University writes, “Touch is not optional for human development.”

From Touch: The Science of Hand, Heart, and Mind:

But you’re not a baby, right? Doesn’t matter. Linden says touch is still vital.

From Touch: The Science of Hand, Heart, and Mind:

Saying that touch helps with relationships might seem obvious but the research shows touch improves nearly every area of your life. For instance: want to know the secret to success they don’t teach in any MBA program?

Kissing.

Yeah. Smooches. Don’t worry; I’ll explain…

Read more: How To Get People To Like You: 7 Ways From An FBI Behavior Expert

Affection Makes You Successful

Am I recommending kissing in the office? No, not unless you find the chairs in the HR department comfy. But kissing before work? It might extend your life and boost your salary by 30%.

Via The Science of Kissing: What Our Lips Are Telling Us:

Once you’re at work the kisses need to stop — but that doesn’t mean platonic touching should.

Need help on a project? Touch your coworker on the arm when you ask. They’re far more likely to give you what you need:

And what does the research say about touching and teamwork? Next time you’re watching a basketball game pay attention to which team high fives and fist bumps more often — because they’re probably going to win:

Some will say that’s correlation, not causation. But how does neuroscientist David Linden interpret the findings? He thinks touching improves cooperation and performance.

From Touch: The Science of Hand, Heart, and Mind:

But what if you don’t work on a team? What if you just work with numbers all day? Touching still helps. Believe it or not, massages improve math skills:

(To learn what Harvard research says will make you happier and more successful, click here.)

So a little bit of touching can boost success. But work isn’t where most of your happiness comes from. What’s a dead simple prescription for boosting happiness at home?

Read more: How To Get People To Like You: 7 Ways From An FBI Behavior Expert

Hugs Really Do Make You Happy

Researchers at Penn State told a bunch of students they had to give or get 5 hugs a day for a month.

Of course, college students are terrible at following instructions so they only ended up averaging 49 hugs over the four weeks. But it didn’t matter…

What’s the magic ingredient in hugs? That simple squeeze increases your oxytocin levels. Oxytocin tells your amygdala (the fear, anxiety, and aggression headquarters of your brain) to chill out.

Via The Upward Spiral:

Want to take it to the next level? Get a massage. Now you don’t need me to tell you massage makes you feel better…

But did you know it helps your brain build good habits that can increase happiness down the line? That it reduces pain? That it reduces fatigue and improves sleep?

Via The Upward Spiral:

(To learn the 8 things the happiest people do every day, click here.)

So you’re getting your recommended daily allowance of hugs. Awesome. But you really should get that massage as well — and get it from that special someone — because it does a lot more than just make you happier…

Massage Strengthens Relationships

Pay for some massage oil and you may not need to pay for a divorce attorney:

How do you get your partner to give you a massage? Tell them it will make you more attractive — because it can. That rub down can prevent wrinkles:

Affectionate touches mean so much that merely noticing them can turn you into a Sherlock Holmes of relationships. Want to know how happy a couple is? Just pay attention to how often they kiss:

Even better, want to know how happy you are with your relationship? Just ask yourself one question:

When you’re stressed, how much better do you feel when you hold your partner’s hand? Happier couples feel more relief:

(To learn what science says about how to be better at flirting, click here.)

We’ve covered a lot. Let’s round it all up and learn what the long term result of more touching, hugging, kissing and massage is…

Read more: New Harvard Research Reveals A Fun Way To Be More Successful

Sum Up

Here’s what we learned about the power of touch:

  • Affection makes you successful: Kisses before work can add 5 years to your life and 30% to your paycheck. (Kisses at work lead to lawsuits.)
  • Hugs really do make you happy: 8 glasses of water a day doesn’t make you healthy; it only makes you pee more. But 8 hugs a day do make you happier. Smile more, pee less.
  • Massage strengthens relationships: And they help prevent wrinkles. Botox is expensive. Massages are free.

Okay, that’s a lot of formal science about the most informal of subjects. But what happens if you listen to all these cold, clinical studies? You’ll be considered a warmer person. That’s nice, right?

No — it’s awesome. When people perceive you as warm they also see you as having a ton of other wonderful traits. But most of all, they trust you more.

From Touch: The Science of Hand, Heart, and Mind:

I’d give you a hug right now if I could, but I can’t. So instead… I’ll give you homework:

Try that Penn State experiment yourself: give or get 5 hugs a day.

They can be from anyone. Can you do it for a month?

Remember, people reach for their phone 85 times a day. Maybe try reaching for a hug instead?

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This article originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

Contact us at editors@time.com.

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