There are a number emotional and physical benefits when holding hands, especially when someone is sick or dying. A number of research case studies have found there is a lot of power and importance in hand holding. Our hands are one of the most sensitive and busiest parts of our bodies. The hands are like our talking stick – that is they are finely attuned to another person’s emotions, feelings and needs (let alone all the tasks they do). Who would of thought so much can transpire between the lovely act of holding hands and finding that deep human connection?

We are unconsciously communicating between each other when holding hands. Trust and security can be developed from how, when and why you are holding hands. Also there are signals from your perspiration, your pulse and many more non-verbal signals are being related to one another during the blissful act of holding hands.

Babies are born with a grasping reflex, where they reach out and grasp for someone’s hand, they are looking for the human connection. We continue this behaviour throughout our lives. It could be in love/romance, guidance, friendships or safety crossing the road. We learn the importance of holding hands in our childhood and continue this behaviour throughout our adulthood. One could make the assumption that holding hands with another human when they are sick or dying can also provide that same human connection that was innate at birth.  Simply because, we have been holding hands throughout our life, and as such why would it change at the final stage of our life’s journey. We can provide a feeling of love and security by holding the hand of a person when they are in need of human connection when dying.

These are some reasons why we would hold hands during sickness/dying:

  • Benefits physical, and mental health
  • Reduces both physical and emotional pain
  • Synchronising hand holders brain waves – for non-verbal communication
  • A great stress reliever
  • Reduces fear
  • Provides a sense of security
  • Boosts affection and intimacy

When our hands come together the nerves in the skin of our hands communicate, with our core nervous system – the hypothalamus and pituitary gland that activates the release of happy hormones. There are a number of studies showing that holding hands apart from making one feel nice, there is a biochemistry reaction that happens. Whereby oxytocin is released into the bloodstream – the good hormone. This benefits your physical and mental health. Oxytocin plays a key role in social bonding, it can make us feel loved, happy, cared for and respected. The release of oxytocin decreases feelings of fear and anxiety.

When holding hands with someone the breathing patterns of the two individuals (or more) become synchronised. We can mirror image the other person. Research has shown that by being calm in yourself can transfer onto the other person when holding hands. By knowing a number pranayama’s (breathing techniques) you can reduce the negative emotions such as fear and stress both within yourself and those that are sick or dying.

In a number of research trials there has been results that showed that holding hands can reduce pain. It is thought that the hands have a particular pressure point between the thumb and forefinger that may help with reducing the level of pain someone is experiencing. This maybe something you would like to discuss with an acupuncturist on your next visit. With the holding of hands and the synchronisation that happens with the breath, it appears the brain waves also align and research is showing some evidence that this may reduce pain levels.

The level of empathy that is displayed through touch can potentially reduce pain levels. Studies have shown without communicating through touch your empathy is not fully received by the other person. Holding hands during the dying process can provide the person with non-verbal communication for when words are no longer available. Sometimes there are no words required, just like at birth, the only thing that is required is the love and support that comes through human touch.

Next time, you are with someone who is sick or dying reach out and provide a hand of love.