The Beatles were on to something. It turns out that holding your romantic partner’s hand is good for you. New research reveals that if you do so during emotional distress, it actually lessens emotional pain in recall later. (Sahi et al., 2021).
The study defines emotional pain as “an unpleasant feeling (or suffering) associated with a psychological, non-physical origin, often stemming from thwarted psychological needs” And if you’re one of those people who minimizes the significance of feelings, almost 75% of people state emotional pain- versus physical- was their worst suffering they had ever experienced.
Physical touch may not necessarily diminish the challenge of the moment (though subjects in the study interestingly said they were more comforted despite the pain being rated the same as those who were the non-touch controls). Couples research has shown us now for years that moving towards a partner, particularly in conflict, leads to a tighter bond and closer relationship with each other. It is unlikely these results only benefit those in romantic relationships. If you struggle with any distress from any source- anxiety, fear, obsessions, anger, trauma- you may benefit from holding a hand.
Key takeaway: let your close relationships provide comfort, not neglecting the physical, to help you process distress and trauma in your life.