Since the time of Descartes, Western culture has continued to propose a division between the mind and the body. As research continues to mount, this notion seems to become more antiquated. Ken Wilbur once said that “for every knot in the mind, there is a corresponding knot in the body.” Recently, a study has shown that every touch from our romantic partners may actually ease physical pain.
The study proposes that this happens because of something called “interpersonal synchronization” — an adaptive ability of our mirror neurons that reflect changes in other people we are in close proximity to. When our partners touch us, or look into our eyes, it actually begins to change our body’s response to pain. Therefore, a simple touch can begin to alleviate physical pain.
In the study, 22 couples were observed to see how they subconsciously synced up their minds and bodies. As heart rates and breathing come closer into tune, pain signals normalize. Just being in the presence of someone we love can have a positive effect on our overall health, moment-to-moment.
More profoundly, in couples with a higher empathy for one another, the effects of their touch on reducing pain were even more profound. The researchers explain: “Collectively, the evidence indicates that social touch increases interpersonal physiological coupling during pain. Furthermore, the effects of touch on cardio-respiratory inter-partner coupling may contribute to the analgesic effects of touch via the autonomic nervous system.”
Further studies have shown that non-sexual touch may be key to maintaining positive relationships. Far from being only for the purpose of coupling, relationships provide a balance that keeps people closer to homeostasis. All of those knots and aches and pains may not be a match for the simple touch of a caring loved one.
“A hug is like a boomerang — you get it back right away.” — Bil Keane
See the article that inspired this one here