Handshakes, Hugs, and the New Science on How Touch Can Enhance Your Well-Being
by Michael Banissy
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Pub Date 25 Apr 2023 | Archive Date 24 Apr 2023
Chronicle Books, Chronicle Prism
An exploration of the new science behind our most underappreciated sense and why we need to harness the power of touch for our health and wellbeing.
Every day, we use our sense of touch to navigate the world. A handshake, a pat on the shoulder, a hug-all essential daily touches that make up our daily lives. In Title TK, Professor Michael Banissy brings together diverse scientific insights from the world's largest study on touch with takeaways on how to enhance your levels of touch for a happier, healthier life. The book explains why touch is essential to our wellbeing, the role it plays in our relationships, friendships, in the bedroom, workplace, in team activities such as sports, and much more.
Banissy's latest research explores:
- Our "touch personalities"
- Touch starvation
- How touch defines our relationships and self-esteem
- The impact of touch on our physical and mental health
This is a fascinating window into one of our most important and basic senses and how to harness its power.
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 9 members
As someone who doesn't want to be touched (physical touch is often close to if not the bottom of my results on love language quizzes) I was curious to see how much "Touch Matters" and what I might have been missing out on by trying to avoid it. I think a bit of it might be because I wasn't much for being given "pleasant touch" as a reward growing up. In fact, quite the opposite. I'm also in no way a fan of social touch.
While this book has shown me that a lot of these touches can be beneficial to me (especially hugging), I am not sure I am going to change how I feel about being touched any time soon! I guess I'll just continue to be extra stressed. It is all I've ever known, after all.
The book will give you a quiz to find out your "Touch Persona" by having you answer a series of questions on a range from "strongly agree" to "strongly disagree". Turns out I am more agreeable towards intimate touch and less so with unfamiliar touch, affective touch behaviors and friends and family. The outcome of this quiz was really not all that surprising to me.
I received a free e-copy of this book in order to write this review. I was not otherwise compensated.
The odds are fairly strong that if you pick up a copy of Michael Banissy's "Touch Matters" that you're exploring your own relationship with touch whether that be positive or negative.
I've always had a mixed relationship with touch and even sought therapy for what I called a "fear" of touch when I was in my early 20s, though the word "fear" was likely too strong. As someone who grew up with a disability and experienced multiple significant physical traumas in childhood, physical contact at least felt like it was largely elusive for much of my childhood and young adult years.
As the years have gone by, my comfort with touch hasn't necessarily changed but my appreciation for it has grown significantly. Thus, I found myself completely intrigued by Banissy's research around touch and the world he creates with "Touch Matters."
I will confess that "Touch Matters" wasn't entirely what I expected. With a strong emphasis on research around a variety of touch issues, "Touch Matters" is very strong when it comes to the "science" of touch while less pursuant of the therapeutic issues that may impact someone's relationship with touch.
Banissy starts with the premise that touch is our most underappreciated sense and yet is essential for our health and well-being. He explores the role of touch in society and then brings in diverse scientific insights developed from the world's largest study on touch (from which the book largely finds its foundation). Banissy offers perspectives on how to enhance one's relationship with touch and offers a clear assumption that this will, in turn, guide one toward a happier, healthier life. The science documented here is remarkable, in-depth, and well resourced. While at times the conclusions feel a tad presumptive, I'm also aware that I presented to this reading with my own biases.
Banissy explores why touch is essential to our well-being, the role touch plays in our relationships (personal and professional and recreational), and explores vital issues such as our "touch personalities," touch starvation, the impact of touch on physical and mental health, and how touch defines our relationships and self-esteem.
I found myself at times wishing that Banissy more fully explored obstacles to touch, such as trauma or disability or even cultural factors, but as someone who has devoted many years to developing a healthier relationship with touch I can say without a doubt that I found "Touch Matters" engaging and informative from beginning to end.
Something that I wasn’t sure when I started reading this book was how comfortable or uncomfortable I would be while reading it. I have a very varied history with touch, where in different times of my life, I would be more or less adverse to it.
While I don’t know if all readers who have a similar background as I do with touch will feel the same, I’m grateful the writing was educational enough that it helped me separate myself from what I was reading and it was casual enough to keep me reading.
A part of the early book discusses how this affected babies arguably into adulthood. I don’t know why, but there’s a small part of me that’s sad that some of my health issues might be tied with not being held or touched enough. I’m grateful there have been studies now and opportunities to help premature babies have that exposure to loving touch early on in their lives.
Chapter 3 and how it delved into hugs was another part that made me realise just how hungry I am for that connection. I love hugs. I could go absolutely feral for a good hug. My family and circle here? They aren’t big huggers. If I weren’t so scared of the outside world still, I think I’d be a huge advocate for the return of Free Hugs. I’d be out on the corner daily. Also the fact there have been studies that hugged people are healthier people is absolutely mind blowing.
Going further, learning more about technology and other advancements, reading about the differences in how people perceive touch, and just discovering how one person viewed this journey while writing this was great. Knowing such advancements are so close on the horizon doesn’t feel real, but I know it is.
One of the most important things I want to address about this is how aware the author is of the findings and how he reminds us frequently of the nuance with the topic of touch. He knows studies aren’t perfect, he addresses ethical issues, he acknowledges the gaps in data. And while I wish there could have been more time to delve into different cultures and groups of people, I still learned a lot.
Thank you again to NetGalley and Michael Banissy for the opportunity to read this book. I look forward to seeing it out in the wild and hope people take the time to at least skim through this read.
The connection between the physical realm and our mental states and health is fascinating. This book delves into science of touch and how that effects us. I was most aware when preparing for having a newborn and learning about skin to skin contact, etc., and how important touch is to basic human well-being. This book goes into the different kinds of skin and how touch is optimized for human likeability ("affective touch" response), mentions the Romanian orphanage touch-starved babies and the negative effects of their touch-depravation, how not enough or the right kind of touch ("affection hunger") can create negative outcomes in adults, and explores some analysis of benefits and perils of touch in the workplace, and more.
Structure-wise, it is broken into 4 parts, 10 chapters, and the end of each chapter has a summary of the main points. If you are looking for understandable to the lay-person, yet science-based research on touch, this would be a good choice.
*This review was written in connection with receiving a review copy from NetGalley.*