Does the immense importance of safe touch during infancy hold true into adulthood? We can agree that during early development it’s an innate desire and necessity - so what about now? To be denied touch as an infant is to deny both emotional and physical growth to a substantial degree and it's in observing this truth we find an unspoken discrepancy; years ago we needed touch to the same degree as mother’s milk and air in the lungs in order to fully thrive, but not many wonder if they (or their peers) are continuing to receive enough safe, nourishing physical contact into their adult lives. Enter the term “Touch Starved”, coined by the many who feel they are missing out on a crucial aspect of humanity and well-being.
Studies show that as adults, touch is a language. It's been observed that many adults in the United States touch very rarely compared to other counties, and that even a small amount of touch is a catalyst for compassion. Deliberate, safe touch still has immunity benefits throughout adulthood, stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system to reduce pain, and has the potential to incrementally heal through social safety and affirming connection. Unfortunately and despite the proven benefits, plus a wealth of platforms and devices that keep us connected all over the world in ways that don't involve touch, many adults remain aloof, apprehensive, or even rightfully fearful of the notion that physical human connection can be used as a tool for self growth and wellness; this attitude remains a home to live in given the scarce amount of conversation and resources we generally have at hand.
You may already know that in this space, we value touch - it’s what we do. So, we put together some suggestions to help you explore the fundamental health benefits of safe touch.
This can go easily over looked on a day to day basis. Find some time to give yourself a massage, and explore your own sensations and sensitivities. Play with varying amounts of pressure, different textures, directions, and stretch your body. Try starting small by following our tutorial on hand stretching. Notice what types of touch you enjoy, and what you enjoy less.
Turn to Your Loved Ones
Whether they're family or friend, your loved ones are likely in your life to hear and help you out. Tell them you could use support and how they could help. The conversation doesn't have to be too complicated and could go something like "I've been thinking about how much physical contact I give and receive in my life and think I could benefit from connecting. I'm grateful to have you in my life, are you interested in trying this out with me? We could (insert suggested physical activity here) and see how that works for us both!".
Test Out an Embodiment Practice - dance, yoga, thai massage etc.
Dance is a wonderful way to become sensitized to our own body/self and the touch of another. In tandem, it can be challenging, interesting, and elating. Don’t let preconceived notions of what “dancers” are fool you - dance is truly for everyone. If you’re feeling especially curious, try out the push and pull of contact dancing.
Even a little touch goes a long way - gentle, subtle adjustments by a yoga instructor in class can be the grace we need.
Receive a Massage
Do your research on massage therapists in your area - look for someone who resonates with you. If you have a history of PTSD and are concerned about receiving touch from a stranger, look for a practitioner who is trauma informed and able to fit your needs. Communicate your needs to your chosen massage therapist well before your session begins so they are able to meet you halfway.
Reach Out and Share
Some people naturally touch conversationally with loved ones - for some people, it takes practice. With good rapport, the right context, and friendship, this is a good way to fill up the touch tank (and someone else’s, too!).
Notice the Moments You Receive Touch
We may not notice how cared for we really are if we don’t bring our attention to the care we are shown every day. During any practice, it’s the attention and personal shifting that makes the biggest impact in our lives. Journal, check in with yourself, take a deep breath and savor those moments - and as always, take care of yourself.
If you’re feeling inspired, reach out to us. We’re trauma informed and cultivate a safe, open space for you to notice your experience while receiving all the benefits of massage.