The Healing Power of Touch
The Healing Power of Touch
A few years ago, I was standing in a circle with fellow yoga students, singing a song, out loud, for the group, and suddenly, I started to feel a little lightheaded, a little disconnected. Wendy, the lovely lady who was standing next to me, reached out and took my hand, and I experienced a sense of connection and calm. I relaxed and continued singing. Sometimes the simplest things can have amazing power.
Touch plays an important role in our everyday existence, and not just in practical matters like testing temperature or texture. In recent decades, scientists and psychologists have begun studying the sense of touch more in depth. Among other things, they’ve discovered that human touch can convey a myriad of messages and emotions. And it can have a powerful effect, especially on those we love.
It begins at the start of our lives. Skin contact with newborns and young infants has become increasingly spotlighted as vital to their health, helping them with development issues, regulating sleep, and heartrate, as this fascinating experiment shows. Nowadays, many parents immediately hold their newborn child to their bare chest. Even dads take off their shirts to let their new babies feel the warmth of their skin. And baby slings and holders seem to be more popular than ever in many places around the world.
Of course, the fact that touch is so closely tied to human emotions, communication, and development, may not be surprising to you. And you probably also know that you don’t lose that reaction to touch as you get older. Think of how sometimes something
as simple as a warm hug or a gentle pat on the back can do wonders for your morale. Think of how thrilling or sensual a lover’s touch can be, even in an area that’s not particularly erogenous.
Being touched has impressive effects – and so, it turns out, does touching. Researchers have found that all of this goes for the person touching, as well; they, too, benefit from things like a reduction in stress hormones and a boost in oxytocin, commonly
known as the ‘feel-good hormone.’
Touch isn’t just about feeling good - certain touches can also signal danger or a need to hold yourself back, for example. But it can calm danger, too. A recent experiment in which participants voluntarily experienced pain, showed that when they held
the hand of their husbands, brain activity related to fear and danger decreased. The same thing happened, although on a lesser scale, when they held hands with a stranger.
Alternative medicine has long acknowledged the power of touch, and now Western medicine seems to be getting the message, too. This article cites no less than a hundred studies that have shown touch can have an effect on medical issues as diverse as pain, glucose levels in diabetic children, and boosting the immune system in patients suffering from a number of different illnesses.
Sometimes when someone we know is feeling sad or anxious, we may struggle to find the right words to comfort them. But the power of touch helps us transcend that. If you and they feel comfortable, why not try taking their hand, as the lady in my Dru
yoga class did with me? Or hug or hold them, or even simply put a comforting hand on their back. In and of itself, touch is a transformational therapy. Touch is simple, but you can do so much by reaching out.