Are you Touch Deprived?
When was the last time you were touched by someone? Was it when you gave your kids or partner a hug good bye this morning? Was it a pat on the back from a coworker? A handshake from someone you just met? Do you even remember…?
Our bodies and minds thrive on touch but in our society we seem to be touch deprived. I just read about a study from the 1960s where a researcher observed friends talking at a cafe in several different countries around the world. In England the friends didn’t touch each other at all, in the US they touched twice, in France the rate was 110 touches per hour, and in Puerto Rico it was 180 touches per hour!
I was at a Yoga Conference on the weekend where I did a Thai Yoga Massage intensive workshop. The instructor talked a lot about touch – not only the benefits of touch but also the lack of it in our society. He said that touch had become dichotomized in our society – that it had come to mean one of two things: it was either violent or sexual. A perfect example is how careful teachers and care providers need to be around children – many are fearful to hug a child because they don’t want it to be taken the wrong way.
Other research show that our personal ‘bubble’ has grown over the years as we prefer to stand further away from people when we interact with them, and touch during a conversation now makes many uncomfortable (my mom is a toucher – she often puts her hand on someone’s arm when she’s talking to them and I can see how many people shift their stance awkwardly when she does this).
Why does this matter?
Studies are coming out at an alarming rate showing that isolation, loneliness, depression, stress, and anxiety are at all time highs. Much of this has to do with our lifestyle and touch and meaningful connection with ourselves and others can go a long way to helping these conditions.
Touch has many important benefits for us. We evolved to be touched – our primate ancestors spend 10% or more of their time engaged in touch through grooming one another. Touch activates the orbitofrontal cortex of the brain – a region associated with feelings or reward and compassion. It also releases the hormone oxytocin and stimulates the vagus nerve – both involved in lowering stress and making us feel good. Below are some of the many other benefits of touch on both or physical body, our mental state, our internal functioning, and more.
Some of the Many Benefits of Touch
- eases pain
- helps with infant growth
- enhances vital signs
- stabilizes body temp
- can communicate positivity
- helps provide better sleep
- reduces irritability
- increases sociability
- strengthens relationships
- strengthens immune system
- helps with depression
- increases proper digestion
- releases serotonin
- enhances a sense of well-being
- stimulates oxytocin – the cuddle hormone
- slows heart rate – lowers blood pressure
- lowers the stress hormone cortisol
- gives comfort and relieves sadness
- can help us feel happiness & joy
- releases tension & tightness
- helps migraine pain
- lessens all types of pain – including in pregnancy and people with fibromyalgia
So What Can You Do?
If you’re not already a conversational ‘toucher’ then you’re not likely to become one (not to mention that it may make people uncomfortable!), but you can increase touch in a few other ways.
1) Make an effort to hug your kids, partner, close friends, etc often and linger in the hug a little longer.
2) Spend more time lovingly touching a partner (hold hands, put your arm around one another, exchange massages/foot rubs, etc)
3) Increase touch with your kids by giving them gentle, encouraging pats on the back, shoulder squeezes, head rubs, etc (a good time for this is when they’re helping around the house or doing their homework)
4) Snuggle up with a pet – the love and pets you give them (and the nuzzles they give you) have been shown to have many of the same benefits.
5) Focus on touching yourself in a meaningful way everyday and work this into a daily routine – take some time to rub lotion on your skin coupled with a short self massage, rub your feet (add essential oils for extra benefit!), give yourself a face/neck/scalp massage, etc.
6) Hire someone to touch you – think Thai Yoga Massage, Indian Head and Neck Massage, Massage Therapy, Reflexology, even facials, manicures, and pedicures fit the bill since you’re experiencing the touch of a practitioner in all of these appointments.
Introducing Thai Yoga Massage
I am now offering Thai Yoga Massage. This is a great way to experience the benefits of touch in a safe, relaxing atmosphere. Be gently guided through a serious of yoga postures while having the body’s energy lines massaged to release tension, increase flexibility, and feel amazing!
Special Introductory offer for the month of April – Book a 45 minute session for $30 +HST
Schedule your session now: https://www.schedulicity.com/scheduling/HAFJM3
Read more at http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/hands_on_research/, http://www.cnn.com/2011/HEALTH/01/05/touching.makes.you.healthier.health/, http://www.exhibithealth.com/general-health/health-benefits-of-human-touch-1345/