I can’t count how many people I’ve held hands with over the years -- friends, my mom, a guy I genuinely liked, or some random boy I happened to be standing next to at a party.
I have always maintained holding hands is one of the more casual, yet simultaneously intimate physical acts. The way your fingers intertwine with another person’s is both innocent and special.
It isn’t always romantic, and it certainly doesn’t always mean something. But, it’s both pleasing and human nature to take the hand of someone else.
Maybe the last person you held hands with was your best friend when you reunited after months apart.
You wanted to be as close as possible before your real world jobs and lives in different cities separated you once again. Or maybe it was your mom, right before you boarded a plane to a new country.
Whoever it was, the reason that person held your hand wasn't unusual or unique.
And although I might be one of the only people who prefers holding someone’s hand to going home with someone for the night, it isn’t just an odd aspect of my personality.
There are scientific and psychological reasons behind the reasons humans hold hands (and why so many artists write songs about it).
It provides comfort.
As humans, we are not only creatures of habit, we’re also creatures of comfort. We gravitate toward situations and people who make us feel as content and secure as possible.
In the scientific study, “Lending A Hand,” neuroscientists from the University of Virginia and the University of Wisconsin studied the effect the simple act of a human touch has on people in stressful situations.
In this case, the participants underwent the threat of electric shock. The researchers came to the conclusion a “loving touch reassures.”
Dr. James Coan, one of the researchers, said,
We found that holding the hand of really anyone, it made your brain work a little less hard in coping.
So whether you’re mourning a loss, had a bad day at work or you’re just feeling a little down, find a hand to hold. Because, in the wise words of the philosopher Akon,
Things will get better if you just hold my hand.
We like to feel connected.
There’s a reason your mom was probably the first person who held your little hand. She’s the one who birthed you, the person who provided you with nourishment, warmth and a safe place to rest your head.
From day one, we are automatically connected with our mothers. Her hands led us safely across the street and grabbed our little palms before they touched the hot stove.
Her soft, now a little wrinkled, hands first taught us the meaning of a physical connection and will always remind us of the importance of a close bond.
On the other hand, holding hands can purvey a non-maternal connection. You could be with your relatively new significant other, standing in a room full of people you don’t know, each engaging in small talk with separate people.
But, the person you’re holding hands with is there. You can physically feel it. There’s no doubt in your mind that person will be there for you and will be there when the small talk dwindles to awkward silence.
Holding hands provides warmth.
Skin to skin contact is the best way to release and absorb heat -- whether you forget your gloves on a brisk winter walk through the park or your apartment building decided you didn’t need heat for the month of February.
Pressure relieves pain.
Whose hand did you hold when your 8-year-old self got her ears pierced? Was your dad in the delivery room bravely holding your mom's hand as she brought you into the world?
Did you hold your middle school boyfriend's hand while you struggled to make it through the entirety of "The Hills Have Eyes"? (Or were you too busy being a teenager and making out in the back row?)
You automatically reach for your face if you accidentally walk into a door and try to release the stress in your shoulders after a long day hunched over your computer at work.
We’ve been programmed to see pressure as a slight, sometimes temporary, relief from pain.
And, when you think about it, someone holding your hand provides a very light form of pressure. Scientists at Johns Hopkins University found when you place pressure on the "fleshy area between the thumb and forefinger," headaches, dental pain and anxiety can decrease.
So, when your hand is wrapped in someone else’s, his or her palm provides a similar pressure, potentially providing relief from any minor physical or mental pain you might be feeling.
It can serve as a powerful statement.
For instance, if a celebrity is spotted holding hands with someone, society automatically assumes the pair is together.
While simple, holding someone’s hand in public, soberly, makes a declaration. It either says you’re together, you have a close relationship or you support what the other person is doing. And humans like to make statements.
We wear graphic t-shirts, post Facebook statuses and tweet our point-of-views. It makes our existence known, and therefore relevant.
It’s convenient and easy.
When we’re walking next to someone, our hands automatically fall to our sides, parallel with the person matching our stride.
No muscle is strained. And you don’t have to worry if your hand placement is weird or if you’re doing it correctly.
It can be sexy.
If you’ve been MIA for the past three years and haven’t heard about the “Fifty Shades Of Grey” phenomenon, then you should know that, sometimes, people like to feel dominated.
Some people like when others are in charge and making decisions. Although handholding is nowhere close to handcuffing, the person with his or her hand on top, the dominant hand, usually has control.
Whether he or she means to or not, in that moment, his or her body language demonstrates a physical control of you. Which, hey, for some people, that’s kind of hot.