Thursday, July 16, 2009

Holding Hands

Although the research is a couple of years old by now, I just came across this article which indicates that, "Married women under extreme stress who reach out and hold their husbands' hands feel immediate relief." Although I have known of many studies which indicate that married couples are physically healthier than their single counterparts, I had not known of research indicating that married love can be an immediate and significant antidote to the stress response in the body.

The study involved happily-married women who were lying in an MRI machine, knowing they were soon to begin receiving random shocks to an ankle. Brain scans showed significant activity in regions normally associated with anticipating pain, regulating negative emotions, and heightening physical arousal.

However, when the husband was permitted to reach into the imaging machine and touch his wife's hand, the activity level in all those brain areas indicating stress plummeted.

"The women received significantly more relief from their husbands' touch than from a stranger's, and those in particularly close marriages were most deeply comforted by their husbands' hands, the study found."

I have always known that to take my husband's hand helps to calm me when I'm scared or anxious, but I haven't known what a physical phenomenon was at work.

Last week, my fifteen-year old daughter had all four of her wisdom teeth removed. They allowed me in the room just after she began to come out of the unconsciousness induced by the general anesthesia. She was groggy, confused, packed with gauze, and still rather delirious. I knew that later, she wouldn't remember anything happening right then. I knew that she was still under the effects of the anesthesia. I knew that the panic and fear in her eyes would pass as she regained her bearings and found herself again in her right mind. But I'm so grateful that my natural response to seeing her overwhelmed face and eyes brimming with tears was to reach out and take her hands. She couldn't understand anything I was saying or process my smiling face and soothing tones, but maybe, just maybe, her body felt me grasp her hands and settled more easily into peace.

Thank you, Lord, for the reminder of what a gift You have given me in my husband. May I take greater advantage of the glorious privilege of reaching out for his hand...

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