Holding hands strengthens relationships, soothes anxiety, reduces stress and diminishes pain. Unlike PDA, holding hands is the rare socially acceptable public act of intimacy. It can be performed by anyone of any gender, anywhere, anytime, at any age. You can be single, a nonagenarian, a pro athlete or a long-married spouse in the midst of a sex strike and most definitely reap the rewards of holding hands. Grown-ups can still hold hands with their parents, siblings or friends. Under the right circumstances, you can hold a stranger’s hand. Need more evidence of its power? Three words: Aniston. Pitt. Wrist.
We begin to hold hands as infants, but the appeal never gets old. In fact, holding hands offers us all a way to grasp at our humanity in this increasingly digital, disconnected world. But don’t take our word for it. Let’s look at the science. And if it helps even a few people feel more connected and compassionate? Well, we’d like to think we had a hand in that.
It soothes us. Studies have shown the effects of warm, supportive touch include reduced amounts of the stress hormone cortisol, lower blood pressure and slower heart rates. Holding hands “buffers the physiological consequences of [a] stressful response,” experimental psychologist Matt Hertenstein, Ph.D., told NPR.
It helps us connect. Oxytocin: It’s not just reserved for our most intimate relationships. Holding hands, especially when we interlace our fingers with another person’s, encourages the release of this “cuddle hormone.” The result? Surging “feelings of devotion, trust and bonding,” per Hertenstein.