It’s well known that our social lives have a major impact on our emotional lives, and that touch is a really crucial part of feeling supported for most people. R esearchers from 3 Canadian universities wanted to know more about what makes us feel supported. In their study, they recruited 53 couples and randomly assigned individuals to roles as givers or receivers of support. Without disclosing who had received which role, the researchers told one member in the couple that they would be given a stressful task to perform. The researchers then analyzed video recordings of the interactions, and they surveyed the study participants afterwards.
What the researchers observed was fascinating: that it’s not necessarily important to express that you’re seeking support in order for you to receive and feel it. Merely by reaching out to touch their partners, research participants felt more supported in their time of stress, even when their partners hadn’t understood a request for support. Our natural tendency to return touches subconsciously creates a mirroring effect, which translates into feeling supported, and therefore feeling better. This isn’t to say it’s not important to communicate your needs verbally; rather, that verbal communication isn’t the only way to support someone.
The bottom line: the next time you’re feeling a little low reach out. Literally.