#Close accordians

Why is touch so important?

Are you feeling out of sorts at the moment? Can’t quite figure out why? Maybe you are just not getting enough hugs!! Strange as it may sound, there may be a lot of truth in this, so I have done some investigating and thought I would tell you about my findings.

During the COVID19 pandemic we are getting less physical contact/hugs from our families and/or friends, as we can’t see them or physically touch them due to the social distancing rules. Lots of my clients and friends, as am I, are really missing that physical contact.

But why is touch so important and how does it help calm us? Read on and I will have a go at explaining this to you. It may surprise you to know that human touch is not just “a sentimental human indulgence it is a biological necessity”.

Why?

Put simply, a lack of touch is a physical stressor on the body and helps throw you into a stress state (fight or flight mode). For example, a hug feels great, you feel warm, safe and secure, as we are social creatures and need to feel part of “our tribe”. So, by being touched or hugged, information is collected via our skin and passed via the central nervous system to our brain to tell us we are ok and safe. That message releases our “happy chemicals” – endorphins. So, hug or a gentle massage will give the person the reassurance they are safe and will help their bodies relax. So, this could be why we are feeling out of sorts as our body needs this reassuring touch to feel part of the community and to feel safe, and unfortunately we aren’t getting as much contact/touch at the moment.

I really like the work being done by Dr Chatterjee. If you don’t know who he is, he is a social prescribing GP, who encourages his patients to look at lifestyle and other stressors in their lives to help increase their wellbeing, before he will prescribe medication. One of his books, the Stress Solution, has a chapter on the “Human Touch” going into great detail about how the body collects this information, which nerves in our nervous system come into play, and how the messages are relayed to the “limbic system” (the emotional part of the brain), to communicate that we are safe and secure.

Pressure and speed of stroke is key.

Dr Chatterjee has also interviewed Professor McGlone, a Professor in Neuroscience at Liverpool John Moores University, who has done research on touch and how it influences the body. The Professor has even been able to establish the correct pressure and speed of a stroke required on the body, which will have the most beneficial effect. It replicates a mother’s caress of her baby, relating to primal behaviour. By stroking or massaging at a particular speed the heart rate decreases, thus soothing the baby. So, similarly any stroking/hugging/gentle massage can sooth the central nervous system, tell us we are safe and secure and take us out of our fight and flight mode (which can cause us to be stressed and anxious) and into our rest, digest and what Dr Chatterjee calls – “Thrive” mode.

I also found it fascinating, and hopefully you will too, that Professor McGlone discussed a study on pre term babies who were placed in incubators, so had very little touch from mother/parents from 24 weeks. As result 25% of those babies went onto develop autism. However, pre term babies in a hospital in Milan, where the babies in the incubators were touched and stroked on a regular basis, showed increased neurological development and were discharged earlier from hospital. He also discussed how babies in Romanian orphanages who had little or no touch, all had developmental delays and other neurological problems, but once placed in foster homes or adopted and touch was re-established their neurological health improved.

If you want to find out more check out www.drchatterjee.com. You can access his podcasts and interview with Professor McGlone from there. I believe the pressure and speed of touch/stroke, as mentioned above, is replicated when we do aromatherapy massage and even the relaxation strokes when performing reflexology. So, as well as the lovely aroma and health benefits of the essential oils being applied (which I use in Reflexology too), we are soothing the nervous system by simply slowly massaging the person.

So if you want to find out more or how soothing an Aromatherapy massage or Reflexology session can be get in touch with Debbie @ info@harmonyholisticswirral.co.uk. You can also check out my website www.harmonyholisticswirral.co.uk.