Human beings are born needing the experience of touch…we find it necessary to address and reduce negative feelings.
Loneliness has been a huge problem during the Covid pandemic. Social distancing has caused an increased loss of human touch – so many of us are touch deprived! We have not been able to hug our parents, family or friends for a long time! This is called ‘Touch starvation’ and is known to cause anxiety, depression, stress and sleep problems.
Not only does touch feel good, but it also has many, many health benefits according to research – touch stimulates the vagus nerve which runs throughout your body: “The nerve’s primary role is to slow the nervous system,” says Tiffany Field, Ph.D., the director of the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. “As a result, your heart rate goes down, your blood pressure drops, and your stress-hormone levels fall.”
Touch can also alleviate pain, be calming, it offers support, it can welcome someone, be consoling, it can tackle loneliness, bring you a feeling of safety and trust. Sometimes it is more powerful than any words could be – a hug, a touch, a hand hold.
So how can we help ourselves during this unusual time, when the human touch is sometimes out of our reach?
- Spend time with animals – such a soothing comforting feeling.
- Hug yourself! Hugging yourself can replicate those feelings of comfort and safety – find our more here.
- Sleep with a comforting body pillow.
- Self massage – rub in almond or a scented oil after a bath or shower.
- Dancing – The movement helps us reconnect with the physical senses of our body and releases oxytocin. Turn your favourite song up and dance around the house!
- Use a weighted blanket – a method of giving the body pressure as a way to relax the nervous system. They’re great for calming anxiety, help deepen sleep and give your body a sense of safety.
- With those that you can hug within your social bubble – Hug for at least 20 seconds for the maximum health benefits!
It is also possible to find a clinic, such as Lucks Yard, that can offer a safe environment for Chiropractic, Massage therapy, reflexology and podiatry – as well as pain relief, this can offer a calming effect, which can help improve sleep, raises oxytocin levels – the feel good/antidepressant hormone, serotonin and dopamine. It can help strengthen the immune system and encourage the body’s production of natural painkillers!
Why not tune in to a new series called Anatomy of Touch on BBC Radio 4, which explores this topic – it’s fascinating! Anatomy of touch.