Posted by Peggy Kaufman

On February 14, many of us are pondering: Flowers? Cards? Chocolate? Jewelry? How do I share my emotions on this day of expressing feelings?

Last month I read a piece in the New York Times weekend edition Modern Love about the power of touch and the central, fundamental aspect of touch to the human experience. When we think about it, many of us, even those in loving relationships and loving friendships, may feel deprived of the simplicity of touch: a warm hand on our face, our arm, our back, or holding a hand just to hold a hand. A gentle touch from someone close, a reassuring squeeze of the hand, or an ‘I see you' message can strengthen connections, heal, communicate, influence, and soothe.

When it's from the right person in the right context, we rarely have to guess the words – the words become irrelevant anyway. Instantly we can feel closer, calmer, and more understood. Less than one second of safe, interpersonal touch can influence health and behavior in remarkable ways.

Our science has taught us many things about the influence of touch, among them that newborns who are given nurturing touch grow faster and have more improved mental and motor skill development, children raised with more positive physical interaction tended to be less aggressive and violent, partners who cuddle have been shown to have lower stress and blood pressure levels and improved immune function. and older adults who receive the soothing, affirming experience of touch have been shown to better handle the process of aging.

So this Valentine's Day whether you choose the card, the flowers, the chocolate, or the jewelry, you may want to add a loving touch. In fact, you may want to add a loving touch the other 364 days of the year as well.

Peggy Kaufman Peggy H. Kaufman, MEd, LICSW is the founding director of the JF&CS Center for Early Relationship Support. With a background in perinatal emotional health and the growth and development of parents, her interests include the earliest relationships. Ms. Kaufman is the recipient of multiple awards for her groundbreaking programs and her commitment to increase awareness of postpartum depression and maternal and infant mental health.