The sweetness of your hand

The chronicle of David Servan-Schreiber, psychiatrist. Author of Cure (Pocket, 2005) and Anticancer (Robert Laffont, 2007), he founded and led a center for integrative medicine at the University of Pittsburgh, the United States -United.

David Servan-Schreiber

In the movie White Nights in Seattle , by Nora Ephron (1993) (1) , Meg Ryan dreams of meeting the man whose touching the hand will give him that rare feeling of peace and security that every human being secretly yearns for. Is it a Hollywood fantasy, or is there a reality behind this idea that the mere touch of the other's hand can "speak" to our inner being? For thirty years, sociological studies have established with certainty that people who live happily as a couple are in better health. They have fewer colds, fewer heart diseases, and even fewer cancers (NJ Johnson's Marital status and mortality: the national longitudinal mortality study, E. Backlund, PD Sorlie and CA Loveless, in Annals of Epidemiology, May 2000 ). Some studies now suggest that it would be precisely because of the effects of amorous physical contact.

At the University of Zurich in Switzerland, researcher Beate Ditzen asked happy women in their marriage to take a test in public and in front of a jury. As for 90% of humans, this has generated significant stress in them. Some of them had no contact with their husbands before their "examination". Their heart rate and level of stress hormones (such as cortisol, the main biological indicator of stress) have increased sharply. Those to whom husbands had said words of encouragement before the test were not more protected from the effects of stress than if they had not been there. In contrast, those who had received a small massage of the shoulders and neck (ten minutes, with a little oil) of the man they loved went through the ordeal with much more calm. Their heart rate and cortisol level also remained normal (B. Ditzen, S. Schmidt, B. Strauss, UM Nater, U. Ehlert and M. Heinrichs, Journal of Psychosomatic Research, May 2008).

In another study, the same team followed fifty-one couples very closely for a week. The more these women and men touched each other, or made love, the less their cortisol was elevated. Again, it was not the quality of emotional exchanges by speech that made a difference, but the time spent each day touching your hand, hugging or caressing your skin.And the more stress they had in the office, the greater the protective effect of touch on cortisol surges - and their mood - was marked ("Effects of different types of cortisol interaction and heart rate response to stress in women"). B. Ditzen, ID Neumann, G. Bodenmann et al., In Psychoneuroendocrinology, June 2007).

Parakeets like monkeys, dogs, cats - and kids! -, seem to know better than us how to take care of their physiology in this way. Animals are constantly looking for physical contact with those they trust. They feed on it as one can feed on other energies: those of air, water, food, a chimney fire or the sun ...

For us, adult humans, c is an aspect of our life that we often neglect. How many men and women have gotten into a relationship with someone who, in the end, really does not like the smell or the touch of the skin? Other couples, on the contrary, surprise us sometimes as they seem mismatched in their interests or their origins, but we see from the outset that they are well, as "posed" when they are next to one another on the other, often even next to each other. No doubt they responded to this "animal" call deep inside of them that made them feel that something - their cortisol? - reacted to the physical presence of this partner.

Here again is an energy, an inexhaustible and free resource from which we can all learn to profit and to offer, before every exam, every test in the office, at each setback, or simply as that, for nothing, as we breathe or as we put ourselves in the sun. To feel, through the softness of the hand, the sweetness of life.

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