Live alone? Single? Don’t have an affectionate partner? Don’t have a cuddle buddy? Not having enough affection in your life can be a tough gig. So why is touch important and what can we do about it?
There are many ways that touch supports our wellbeing. I’d like to share some of these with you here and then take a look at a range of sometimes quirky but pretty simple strategies we can all implement to get more of our important touch needs met, regardless of our situation.
The many benefits of touch
Touch can trigger all kinds of profound neurological and physiological benefits…
- Helps regulate the nervous system – THIS IS SO IMPORTANT!
- Typically reduces blood pressure, anxiety & depression
- Releases pain killing endorphins
- Supports emotional connection and raises our levels of compassion
- Nurtures growth and development in the young
- Boosts the immune system
- Reduces the symptoms of ailments such as Alzheimers
- Signals safety and trust
- Reduces excess levels of cortisol seen in chronic stress, which, if left unchecked over time, has all kinds of negative impacts on our metabolism, blood sugar levels, bone density, memory formulation, weight gain, inflammation and more
- Increases emotional resilience (and just feel great!) – can be a great mood booster and make you more resilient to life’s challenges (and probably more compassionate).
How to get the most out of these tips
Keep in mind that while the below options don’t replace emotional connection and may not seem satisfying at first glance, the simple act of applying appropriate pressure on different parts of the body can send some of the same soothing messages to our nervous system as a good hug!
I recommend incorporating human connection by combining these tips with activities like a face to face walk in nature with a good friend.
Touch tactics – alternatives for getting your fix!
As a massage therapist it’s no surprise that touch is my primary love language. I know from first hand experience that if you’re not getting enough touch, it can be easy to fall into funk.
But, there are things you can do about it. I want to share with you a range of tactics that I hope can really support you. It’s not an exhaustive list, so if you have a great idea you’d like to share, please let me know!
1. The blanket solution – weigh your options
I got a 9kg weighted blanket for myself and I double it over for extra lush, soothing weight!Weighted blankets can be pricey, but damn they feel good so I feel like they’re worth every cent. Keep in mind that they are best used for no more than 20-30mins at a time, as discussed in the below video (at 4mins 25sec). As a cheap alternative, try a pile of doubled over blankets and duvets (and even coats) on top of your body.
2.The sausage roll up – snug as a bug in a rug
As a simple alternative to the weighted blanket, try playing with rolling yourself up in a big blanket on the floor.Once you’ve rolled yourself up, start to gently TRY curling your body up into a ball. The goal is not to fully curl up, but simply to feel the pressure of the blanket as you move. As an added bonus, try taking slow, deep breaths and feeling the tightly wound blanket resisting your expanding chest.
3. The floor roll – with mother earth
The slow roll
Lie peacefully on your back on the floor (or ideally on grass). Think about how you’re lying on mother earth. As you lie there, think about how she’s holding you, how she’s holding your body as you lie there.Now VERY sloooowly (over the space of maybe ten seconds) start rolling your body just enough to slowly roll onto your front.Pay close attention to your body as you feel each new part of it touching the floor/mother earth and slowly coming to rest on your belly.Repeat as you move onto your back – playing with super slow, medium and fast speeds.Notice how your body feels during this process and afterwards.
The fast roll
Alternatively or additionally, I’ve found a bucket of joy in embracing my inner child and having a good old fashioned roll down a grassy hill with a friend!
4. The good old foam roller – not just a pain tool!
You might associate foam rolling with PAIN, but it can feel really satisfying (almost like a massage) to just have a nice, slow roll under your back. (Ideally with a softer roller, not a super firm one). If you’re unsure how to proceed, here’s a basic demo video. Keep in mind that you can also do the first couple of techniques with your hands holding your, which makes for a more leisurely experience.
5. The swiss ball – fitness AND fun
Following on from the roller, another way to experience comforting pressure on our body can be through gentle swiss ball play. Not only that, it can be a lot of fun AND we could get a little fitter in the process.
6. The touch of self – bring the love
Are you taking some time out to seduce yourself? We’re not talking about quick and dirty masturbation here (although that has its place).
a. Turn the heater on if it’s not warm
b. Light a couple of candles
c. Put on some lush/sweet/sacred music of your choice
d. Lay a towel on your bed and get some melted coconut oil
e. Once the room is toasty warm, remove all your clothes and lay down
f. Stop, close your eyes and just think about what a beautiful miracle the human body is… your body. Tap into some beautiful loving thoughts of your sacred self. You are a unique gift to this world. Take a moment to acknowledge your worth and really tap into some self love.
g. Slowly, lovingly lather your body in the coconut oil, taking time on each body part, really noticing how it feels to touch yourself in a sacred, honouring way.
h Only once you’re completely covered would I suggest, if you wish, turning your attention to your lingam or yoni, imagining your internal masculine or feminine pleasuring you.
7. The Orgasmatron! …or a good hair brush
With a great, if only slightly misleading name, these little gadgets can feel simply amazing on the scalp. True it does feel better when someone else is using it on you, but it can still feel fabulous.
No orgasmatron handy? That’s ok. The human scalp has a whole bunch of nerve endings, so even just using a brush like the below (with sparse, long, ball-tip bristles) can feel divine!
8. The conscious shower – amp up your awareness
We often tend to take our shower for granted. Like many things, when you stop and really tune in to the sensations of jets of water gently striking the skin, the joy factor can increase significantly.
On the topic of showers (especially as we enter summer) I highly recommend the benefits of finishing your shower with some cold water… I do it most mornings now and aside from the various health benefits, the endorphin rush is SO GOOD!
9. The pillow hug – an oldie but a goodie
A time honoured soother definitely worth a mention… if you haven’t tried this in a while it may surprise you. I have friends who swear by it for sleeping at night.
10. The tree hug – hug it out, outside!
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So, just what is it about tree hugging that supposedly makes us healthier? How can interacting with a tree produce positive effects? Studies have clearly shown that hugging your partner boosts the production of oxytocin. So the act of hugging may be the stimulant for hormone production: does hugging a tree simulate this? Maybe, but what is certain is the benefits of quality green time… forest bathing being the trendy term.
As you can see from the above, the Icelanders are clearly loving the idea!
A Final Note …and a couple of “resources”
It can be hard to just do the basics of self care if you’re in a funk, but aside from the above, don’t forget how amazing it can feel just to get out for a walk with a friend in the sun, preferably in a green space, and ideally with a dog owner! (Or one of my lockdown faves – playing with dogs in the dog park!) 🙂
After all that, if you want more of a “fix”, ongoing study by researcher Mariana von Mohr has found that simply watching videos of people holding hands or stroking animals has helped improve our wellbeing.
On that note, enjoy these little video offerings and good luck with your alternative touch tactics.
Tom Rosenthal – Hugging You
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10 minutes of relentless warm & fuzzy animal hugging
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