Today’s guest post is by Dr. Michelle Robin, the founder and Chief Wellness Officer of Your Wellness Connection and evangelizer of the Quadrants of Wellbeing.
I think most of us don’t realize that we are starved for touch. I am a hugger. I hug everyone, including all of my clients. Sometimes after I hug them, a client will say to me, “No one has touched me since the last time I saw you.” It is so important to incorporate healthy touch into our lives.
Why Do We Need Healthy Touch?
I interviewed Dr. Norm Shealy for my podcast a few years ago and our conversation turned to the reason so many Americans suffer from anxiety and depression. There are a lot of underlying factors and each person is different. But Dr. Shealy argued that the reason we experience anxiety and depression is that we have an oxytocin deficiency. Oxytocin is the nurturing and bonding hormone and is boosted when we experience healthy touch. When we don’t have healthy touch, we become deficient in oxytocin, and we experience more anxiety.
Oxytocin is released in our bodies when we participate in healthy touch. To boost oxytocin it is often recommended to cuddle someone you love. Healthy touch can increase our levels of oxytocin and is healing for us.
In addition to releasing oxytocin, Dr. Gary Chapman shares that one of the Five Love Languages is physical touch. For many people, physical touch is the way they understand love and feel the most loved. As he writes, “For this person, nothing speaks more deeply than appropriate touch.”
Ways to Share Healthy Touch with your Family
In her book, Happier at Home, Gretchen Rubin writes about starting a ritual with her family to give good greetings. She says that as a family there were times that they didn’t touch or even pay much attention to each other, so she asked everyone to stop and greet each family member with hugs and kisses when they left or returned home. This gave her family specific times to hug, which made them all happier.
You might want to also designate specific times to hug, especially if it is a change in your routine. Remember that to get the full benefit of a hug, you need to be heart to heart. So line up your bodies and use both arms to hug your family members.
Holding and massaging hands
It is a simple act to hold hands with someone, but it connects us together.
You can also massage your family’s hands. First, try just drawing circles on their palms lightly with your finger. When that becomes comfortable, you can also learn about reflexology points and give a healing hand massage.
Remember when your child was a newborn and you could hold both their feet in one hand? You would hold their feet and wiggle their tiny toes and run your thumb down the bottoms of their feet. That feels good no matter what age we get to, so try it again. Your family’s feet may not fit in one hand, but you can still rub their toes and the bottoms of their feet.
Our feet are also a good place for a reflexology massage. It is easy to learn how to touch specific spots for a healing massage.
Rubbing a family member’s back doesn’t have to be a big production like a full-scale back massage. It can be as simple as a pat while they are standing at the kitchen counter, or just running your hand across their back when you walk past them.
Of course, you can rub their back for longer if you are watching a movie or TV show together.
Rubbing heads, touching faces
Several years ago, I traveled to Hawaii to work at a convention and I was asked to do bodywork sessions with clients there. I am not a massage therapist, so I really didn’t know what to do. But I felt guided to gently touch my clients with love, so one thing that I did was to gently rub their scalps and touch their faces. As I touched their faces, I felt that I was touching them the way parents often touch their babies, just gently holding their beautiful face. The clients that I worked with shared how moving that experience was for them.
You could gently rub a family member’s head while you watch TV, play games, or even drive (if you can reach safely). You can hold your child’s face with love when you put them to bed at night or wake them up in the morning.
Each of these ways to incorporate healthy touch only takes a moment, but they are a small change that can lead to a big shift in the health and happiness of your family.