With love in the air this month, we think about the importance of the human touch…
What is the true power of the human touch? On one level we are more ‘connected’ than ever, but yet on another level so disconnected to ourselves and others.
Being on the receiving end of touch, be it from someone we love and trust releases serotonin, oxytocin and dopamine in our brains. These are all clever little hormones that help to regulate feelings of anxiety and fear and also encourage us to bond and socialise. But we can also take some time out and benefit from self care and the power of touch in the form of self-massage, which have very similar effects.
Touch is one of the very first senses we develop, but one we least talk about. So at Organa Beauty & Wellbeing we wanted to put a spotlight on this powerful sense.
Touch to promote bonding
From birth touch is an incredibly important, including skin to skin contact between parents and babies to promote bonding. In fact, it is scientifically proven that babies that parents who practice baby massage tend to have children who are less fussy, less agitated or stressed and that skin to skin contact can even encourage weight gain through great feeders who feel bonded with their parent.
The power of touch doesn’t just stop at parent to child, touch can reassure people in times of need. Just a simple touch on the hand or arm can really help to instigate a calming effect.
Power of touch as a form of self care and connection
In 2013 Lee Pyecroft, celebrity makeup artist launched My Makeover. She used her extensive beauty & makeup knowledge as a form of self-care to support the emotional wellbeing of those in vulnerable sectors of society. She says that “when environment, community, touch, support & beauty treatments are combined, there is a shift in a person’s emotional wellbeing. Also by bringing people together where there is commonality and a sense of community it fulfils the need for belonging and connection” by working with vulnerable people Lee finds that “the power of touch is an antidote to emotional issues where a range of beauty & makeup treatments gives people the opportunity to reconnect with themselves”.
There’s nothing quite like an hour with a skilled masseur, but when time or money are short you can still enjoy the benefits – which include pain relief and increased vitality – by practising a few simple techniques at home. And for those who feel self-conscious in spas, or don’t like the idea of being touched by a stranger, self-massage is the answer, enabling you to work in your own home on any sensitive areas. A quick massage is also good after exercise or a long day, giving you a boost and relieving tired muscles without the commitment of an appointment.
Some self-massage techniques at home
- Make sure your room is warm enough and get comfortable – after a bath is a great time for a massage, as your muscles will be relaxed. Warm a little oil in your hands, then apply sweeping strokes, varying according to the effect you want – larger, softer strokes are more relaxing. Slide over the skin using a steady pressure with the entire surface of your hands. If massaging your shoulders, sweep hands over the whole shoulder, encompassing its shape, then gently glide back to where you began, and repeat several times.
- If you have a sore neck and tense shoulders, you can relieve them with a simple reflexology technique, says Osteopath Harley Jaffar. ‘Massage the base of your big toes to alleviate neck and shoulder pain, then work up to the tip of the toe to soothe the whole head area.’ Or, if you’re sitting at your desk, make fists and knead the base of your neck in a firm rolling motion with your knuckles.
- Massage can help with headaches, says Mary Louise Lobo, founder of Skinirvana. ‘Use two fingers to apply pressure on the bridge of the nose, and around the top of the eye socket, repeating five to 10 times. For sinus pain, work along the cheekbones towards the ears with your fingers to ease congestion.’ To release tension in your jaw, apply a small amount of oil and clench your jaw, then use your index fingers to perform rotary pressure on outer edges.
- Reflexologist Indira Nandha recommends a simple foot massage to relax and balance the emotions. After applying oil, massage the sole of your foot with your knuckles, making a figure of eight that covers the entire foot. Then, starting at the heel, work upwards with just the knuckle of your index finger, using a light circular motion towards the toes, then finish with smaller circles on the pad beneath the big toe. Finally, hold your foot in your palm and massage along the sides, which will help to relieve tension in the spine and legs.
What you'll need
You can massage at home with a little olive oil or a special body oil (see below), or try mixing your own blend by adding two or three drops of essential oil to a base of almond or grapeseed oil. Lavender is particularly good for relaxing, while eucalyptus can help with colds. Rosemary and clary sage are both warming.
What about a hug?
Many single people say they just miss being touched or embraced, but it’s not just flying solo that leads to a drop in physical touch. Many of us are simply too busy flying out the door to stop and have a cuddle or sadly, too married to our phones and work to switch off and see and feel what’s around us.
A 2018 study published by PLOS ONE surveying approximately 400 people (of all genders) has concluded that hugs really do improve the negative effects of conflict and stress. Apparently even one hug a week can help decrease negative feelings and the effects they can have on our bodies.
Of course, with the rise in our insular lives and more and more people working remotely there has never been more urgency around combating loneliness. Studies have found that loneliness can lead to more illnesses and is surprisingly far more dangerous than obesity.
Make sure to give yourself some ME TIME or reach out and hug it out!