I'm a hugger, in fact, truth be known, I'm a really GOOD hugger, and hear all the time how people enjoy hugging me, as I love the giving of hugs. For me, it is a non verbal, physical way to connect with people. Touch is one of my love languages, for sure. I've always felt the energy and the healing ability of my hands. I love to feel soft fabric, the colorful petals of a flower in bloom, the leaves of a tree, the face of someone I love... you get the picture. I communicate love with my hugs and I do it well, better than I communicate loving feelings verbally. I do, it's true. And so hugging for me, also helps me convey those feelings with more comfort and ease. I know this isn't so for everyone.
And now living alone and with grown children who have been quite fearful of any possibility of passing on to me this virus, and my choice and others' to keep social distancing practices, I've not been able to hug others for a really long time. This bites! (ironic pun, there!)
I miss the hugs, the connection...most of us do. We spend so little time in actual space with others, outside of immediate family (sometimes) now. And so many are feeling lonely...even with their families and spouses, and sometimes even when those relationships are good. You do not need to be living alone or to have a troubled relationship to feel lonely now (you know, just in case you are and aren't quite sure that's ok, and definitely aren't going to ask anyone).
So I have been finding other ways to give myself/my skin the needed, non-sexual, gentle touch and stimulation I need & shared them with clients and group members, friends and family. And now with you.
Skip to the end if... you just want to see my current list of all the ways to boost your quotient of loving touch that don't involve touching other people. But just so you know...there's some good material in between!
We are generally more aware of the exacerbation everywhere of loneliness (even for those of us who as sensitives and introverts are loving this calming of the chaos and stress of modern life) than we may be of skin hunger or starvation, but a fair share of the slightly off feeling that comes and goes through this pandemic portal of sheltering at home: the low level, hard to pinpoint, feeling of being slightly off, slightly down, needing to eat, totally drained & exhausted, etc. is coming from this lack of touch. Of course, there are the fears/experience of illness, death/loss, financial stress or ruin, relational collapse, violence...that are contributing mightily to our mental health these days, but that doesn't negate the profound alteration in the experience of physical touch for many.
Given that there are ways we can be self empowered to ameliorate the effects of this lack of touch, I think it's a worthy topic now. We don't know all the ways it's going to affect us and the ways we are with others socially. Given that some are predicting that social distancing edicts will be in place for most of the rest of the year, we could be looking at significant changes that will decrease the ease of physical touch between people for generations to come. It is no small thing.
We, the US, rank/s close to the bottom of the list of countries on a scale of the quantity of touch!), so you could say that the increase of loneliness and isolation here could have more devastating effects, without in increase in conscious choice about even who, when, how and why we touch others and ourselves. We don't have such a reservoir of sufficient touch to sustain us.
With consciousness of emotional resilience and empowerment, we recognize we have a multitude of ways to rebalance even this dynamic that is so dependent on affectionate connection with others.
Effects of the lack of sufficient touch include: decreased immune functioning, less deep sleep, more digestive issues, higher pain and stress hormone levels. Emotionally...this all leads to feeling depressed and lonely (more on loneliness soon), decreased emotional resilience in which anxiety (and all things associated with it) can spike. Given that this is being spiked for huge numbers of people in our world because of all the negatives associated with this pandemic, we would do well to attend to our body's touch needs.
Dr. Prescott, formerly of the NIH, says that touch is an essential nutrient for the brain (and heart, I'd add). It is the most basic way we connect on a 3D level and it is our introduction to this world.
Touch is known to regulate digestion and improve sleep. A slower, softer touch, and one that lasts at least 20 minutes activates oxytocin...the love or bonding molecule, the presence of which may be largely responsible for much of the benefit of touch.
We now know that mirror neurons are activated by gazing at another, and that the heart radiates frequencies, like ripples in a pond out to more than 60 feet, and that those connections are therefore physical, too, still touch remains the primary action of connection and is an essential need for the skin and the being. Put slightly differently, we could say that physical connection happens touch, mental connection through conversation; and emotional touch happens through the heart. We need all of these to thrive and while each is originated through different senses and functions, they each affect the whole.
Certainly, we don't all want the same amount and same kind of affectionate touch. People have different tolerances for touch, some love to hug everyone, and some only hug those they feel the closest with, some love massages and some hate them, and some have a sensitivity to touch that makes it uncomfortable, as in sensory processing disorders.
Studies have shown that those who didn't experience much touch as children may have compromised vagal functioning (essential to healthy emotional, relational and gut functioning) and may not get as much touch as adults, through trauma induced touch aversion. We know that they are more likely to be relationally avoidant and have more difficulty forming intimate connections that are enhancing and lasting. Likely, many more of these adults are single now, or in relationships that aren't nurturing and loving therefore, they are still not getting sufficient loving touch in their lives. So people have different feelings about the need for touch in their lives, but do their bodies have different need levels, as well, or is there a certain amount of stimulation that is important, or essential for high quality well being?
Some people, as well, don't have patterns of non sexual touch with the intimate partners, and some partners haven't been able to create loving, mutually supporting and tender relationships and might even be beginning to recognize that their relationships aren't going to survive (topic for another post). And, again, our (especially) white culture...because...
In our world, we are inundated with an almost incomprehensible vastness of possible ways to connect mentally or to simulate connecting mentally. But we are more lacking in heart connection and even more lacking in touch or physical connection, especially now and perhaps for some time. So now...it's a good time to improve your immune functioning and your relationship with yourself, and likely your relationship with others, as well, by connecting with yourself through touch. You know...the more self care we choose and self love we experience the better partners, parents, friends, beings we are. Not evaluation, just truth.
Ways to increase your touch quotient:
1) Give yourself massages
2) Do dry brushing before a shower (improved immune functioning in a number of ways
3) Wear soft cl0thing that feels good to your skin
4) Get out in the sun and het the sunlight touch your skin, as much as you can expose given temperatures and privacy conditions.
5) Take baths or long showers
6) Apply lotion or oil to your skin as if you are touching a lover with the greatest and sweetest tenderness
7) Move: walk (especially in nature and the sun), dance, do yoga, sing with all you've got (you will feel the thrill/vibration of this everywhere as they stimulate pressure receptors under the skin)
8) Curl up with a pet if you have one (dogs aren't getting Covid). If you see one with a person who feels comfortable with you touching their dog, please touch them. Dr. Gabriel Cousens says that this virus only stays viable for 2 minutes out in the sunlight!
9) Instead of hugs: blow kisses; place your left hand on your heart and extend your right had, sending love from your heart; try looking more deeply into other's eyes you feel more connected to.
10) Have you ever done the energy exercise where you rub your hands together quickly building up friction/energy, to begin to develop more awareness about the feel of the energy within you? Do that and then brush your hands down your body, over your face and hair, place your activated hands on your own heart, down your arms...wherever... you'll feel better for it!