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The importance of touch

Friday 6 February 2015

The importance of touch reaches many levels and not only for babies, but for children, teenagers, adults and in old age as well. Besides having physical needs for food, cleanliness and shelter, we also have touch needs.

Think about this for a moment…

What is the first sense that develops in the womb?

The sense of touch.

On an Emotional Level

Did you know that touch deprivation can be just as damaging as harmful touch?

Touch can comfort us. Reassure us. Relax us. Even arouse us.

Or it could make us very uneasy. Threaten us. Hurt us.

Touch deprived children tend to be the more aggressive and violent ones. They lack the experience to discern whether or not touch is good or bad.

It is also ironic that in our modern society there’s a belief that we can spoil our babies by “holding them too much”. If babies weren’t supposed to be held a lot, they would not have been born unable to move around on their own until months after birth and would’ve been capable of providing in their own needs from birth.

Fact is, that the children who are held more turn into the well-adjusted, confident and loving adults, not the other way around.

Touch and emotions actually go hand in hand when you think about it. If someone touches you in a caring manner, you will feel loved and calm. If they touch you in a hurting manner you will feel stressed and threatened.

 

 

Touch stimulates brain growth.

How we are touched in the first few years of our lives, determine how we will cope as adults one day. By releasing “feel good’ chemicals (endorphins) during the early years as a result of being touched lovingly, you will be able to cope much better later in life. But when those chemicals are not released, you will have a harder time coping.

A study on monkeys also proved this point. The ones who received reassuring touch from their mothers, explored new environments and situations with more curiosity and courage. The ones who didn’t receive the reassuring touch couldn’t cope and just collapsed in screams of hysteria.

Positive touch helps you to cope!

When we comfort a crying baby or child, we naturally hold and cuddle them, rub their backs, gently rock or swing them, we even kiss them.

As a mother you’ve probably come to know a little about the amazing hormone called oxytocin. This hormone is the one some refer to as the “love hormone”. It’s the antidote of the “fight-or-flight” response and instead creates a calm response.

Receiving this positive kind of touch will:

  • regulate a baby’s breathing
  • improve circulation
  • aid in digestion and metabolism
  • boost the immune system and
  • improve sleep

 

 

Importance of Touch for Bonding

“Physical closeness brings about psychological closeness”
But the benefits are not only for the one being touched; they are also for the one doing the touching!
In hospitals where volunteers hold and massage babies for short stretches of time, they too experience less anxiety, less depression, their self-esteem improves and they even drink less coffee and don’t have as many doctor’s visits as those who don’t do this!

For mothers the main benefit is helping them get over the baby blues as well as helping with the more serious postnatal depression.

 

– Do you ever feel like you’re living in a bubble, surrounded by people but never touched?

We live in such a busy, crowded world, yet it’s so easy for many of us to go days, even weeks or months without touching or being touched by others.

While you might not notice the effects of not being touched right away, it can negatively affect your mood, your confidence  and your health. We are only beginning to understand the holistic way our bodies work and the relationship between our emotional well being and our physical health.

Here are 6 reasons why you need to be touched on a regular basis.

1. Feel connected to others. We are social beings, and although we all fall in different places on the introversion – extroversion scale, we all need to have that sense of connection to other members of our tribe. While some of that connection can come from having conversations with others, touch also plays an important role in human communication.

2. Reduce anxiety. Simply touching another person can make us feel more secure and less anxious. It can make us feel grounded and safe and not so all alone. It’s not just children who could use a warm, reassuring hug to make things a little better, so if you’re feeling like a bundle of nerves, go ahead and ask for a hug.

3. Bonding. Touch is one of the ways romantic partners bond with each other and parents bond with their children. When partners and families get busy and let touch go out the window, they’ll often find that they don’t feel as close and relationships suffer. Regular touch is one of the ways that we continually renew our bonds with those we love.

4. Lowers your blood pressure. Studies have shown that those that get regular touch often have lower blood pressure than those that don’t. Even having a pet can have beneficial effects! Touch can also slow the heart rate and help speed recovery times from illness and surgery.

5. Improve your outlook. It’s harder to get into a pessimistic funk when you feel the confidence of being connected to others. Touch can make people feel more optimistic and positive and less cynical and suspicious. A positive, trusting attitude towards others can reduce tension in our daily lives and improve our relationships.

6. Give us the sensory input that we crave. Scientists are just discovering how truly important it is to exercise all our physical senses for proper brain and emotional development. All the various kinds of touch from butterfly kisses to deep tissue massage send our brains the physical inputs it needs to make sense of the world. So, along with touching other people and pets, make time to explore different textures and touch sensations such as letting cool sand run through your fingers or taking a warm relaxing bath.

Don’t let yourself get too busy that you starve yourself of touch. It’s important for your physical, mental and emotional well being to touch others and let others touch you

Massage therapy can be an important part of your health maintenance plan by:

  • Reducing or eliminating pain.
  • Improving joint mobility.
  • Improving circulation.
  • Improving lymphatic drainage.
  • Reducing muscular tension.

Massage therapy can be used for the treatment of both acute and chronic conditions. RMTs can work with a wide variety of patients, of all ages, in the treatment of illness, injury rehabilitation and disability.

Massage Therapists today use their knowledge of physiology and anatomy to combine traditional Swedish and modern massage therapy techniques with other therapies to treat their clients. There has been a wide variety of research, published in peer reviewed journals, proving the benefits of massage therapy for various conditions.

The following is a list of conditions for which massage therapy, when provided by a Registered Massage Therapist, can prove beneficial:

Anxiety and depression Asthma and Emphysema
Back, leg, and neck pain Cancer symptoms
Carpal tunnel syndrome (repetitive strain) Chronic Fatigue syndrome
Dislocations Fibromyalgia
Fractures and edema Gastrointestinal disorders
Headaches Inflammatory conditions such as arthritis and bursitis
Insomnia Kyphosis and Scoliosis
Multiple sclerosis Parkinson’s disease
Muscle tension and spasm Palliative care
Post-surgical rehabilitation Pregnancy and labour support
Sports injuries Strains and sprains
Stress and stress related conditions Stroke
Tendinitis Whiplash

 

Massage Therapy can also be used as part of a preventative care program. This includes sports training, injury prevention, ongoing stress management, and more! Together, you and your therapist will develop a treatment plan based on your needs. The treatment plan can be changed at any time and you have no obligation to undergo any part of treatment. Your treatment begins after you’ve given your informed consent.

 

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