For Connection, Comfort & Relief: Why Do We Hold Hands?

Holding hands is one of the more complex interactions we can have with another human being. Just think about all the people you've held hands with during the course of your life: your parents, siblings, friends, helping someone up, a stranger during a trust exercise and people you've dated, maybe even some random guy at a party. It is such a casual, yet at the same time, intimate physical act that we do. You're inviting someone into your personal space, or asking to enter theirs. It isn’t always romantic, and it certainly doesn’t always mean anything more than extending your arm to help or to comfort. Plus, we aren't the only ones who do it. Otters do and so do elephants (although they use trunks but same basic thing). There are scientific and psychological reasons behind the reasons as to why humans hold hands, So what are those reasons?

1) It Provides Comfort

Us humans enjoy the things in life that bring us comfort: warm blankets, warm cups of coffee or tea, cuddles, and food. So, we are drawn to situations and people that comfort us. In the scientific study, “Lending A Hand,” neuroscientists from the University of Virginia and the University of Wisconsin studied the effect the simple act that a human touch has on people in stressful situations. In this case, the participants underwent the threat of electric shock. The researchers came to the conclusion a “loving touch reassures.” It was found that holding the hand of anyone, genuinely helped the participant cope with the situation. So whether you’re mourning a loss, are having a bad day, or you’re just feeling a little down, find a hand to hold. Whether you're giving or receiving it will really help a lot.

2) We Like To Feel Connected

When you were younger, your parents held your hand to protect you, just as you held your sisters' hands to protect them. Now you might hold your girl/boyfriend's hand to both show the world that they are connected to you and also so that you feel physically close to them. From a young age, we were instilled with the notion that a physical connection was associated with a close bond with someone else. The first time you hold your new girl/boyfriend's hand can be very intimate. You could be with your new beau, in a room full of people you don’t know, it can be awkward and uncomfortable with all the small talk, especially if you're more of an introvert. But if you're holding hands with someone you care about it's a comfort, a crux. You know that they'll be there if the awkwardness gets too much.

3) It Relieves Pain & Fear

Squeezing someone else's hand when you're in pain or terrified helps to refocus your mind on something else, something that is comforting. How about during a scary film? While walking through the woods? Or when you got a tattoo? How about when your friend broke her leg? We've been taught throughout our lives that physical pressure - like squeezing hands or holding the injured part of you - will provide relief, even if it's only temporary. Hand-holding is a lighter form of squeezing someone's hand. Scientists at Johns Hopkins University found when you place pressure on the “fleshy area between the thumb and forefinger,” headaches, dental pain and anxiety can decrease. It's a two-way act. you either provide the relief from pain or have your pain relieved.

4) To Make A Statement

We use the act of holding hand to show our views, beliefs and interests. For instance, we generally hold the hand of the person we are romantically involved with, in order to show the world that we don't care who knows. It's a declaration of a personal relationship. Another example would be that at times at protests or rallies, demonstrators might hold hands to represent their unity and like-mindedness. We humans do love to make statements and tell the world how we feel, which is why selfies and Twitter are so popular, they make us more relevant and, therefore important.

5) It's Sexy

If holding hands is a way of demonstrating that you're connected to another person in public, imagine how intensified that can be when you're alone in bed together. Sex can be a highly emotional act, hormones are released that literally make you feel closer to the person you're with and this can only intensified by grasping the other person's hand in the throes of passion. It also has certain dominance tendencies. The person who has their hand on top, the dominant hand, usually has control. It's not as pronounced as using cuffs or a silky scarf (you little fox), but at that moment, his/ her body language demonstrates a physical control of you. Which, for some people, is kind of hot.

Orlaith Costello
Article written by
Orlaith is a Creative Writing graduate from NUI Galway. Hailing from the low lying fields of Athenry, or at least what’s left of the low lying fields. She enjoys the internet as a means of living vicariously through others from the safe confines of her own bed. She will initiate a dance off after at least two drinks on any given night out.
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