SO, HUMAN TOUCH and our need for it. That’s my topic.
If you’re conscious, you probably recognize humans touch each other — and seem to need to. And while there’s much mindful touching — say, having a massage — much everyday touch is almost reflexive, isn’t it? Someone says hello and shakes your hand? Someone says goodbye and squeezes your arm?
Take a day and note all the touching you do or have done to you. You might be surprised.
Researchers in recent years have begun looking at the effects of touch on us humans. Turns out science once again proves common sense: When we touch each other in ways that convey comfort, encouragement and love, we thrive.
The Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami School of Medicine notes that massage therapy, specifically, offers such benefits as facilitating weight gain in preterm infants; enhancing attentiveness; alleviating depressive symptoms; reducing pain; reducing stress hormones; and improving immune function.
Sounds good to me.
And the benefits, researchers are finding, are because of physiology:
“A warm touch seems to set off the release of oxytocin, a hormone that helps create a sensation of trust, and to reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol,” writes Benedict Carey in a New York Times article citing touch research findings. “In the brain, prefrontal areas, which help regulate emotion, can relax, freeing them for another of their primary purposes: problem solving. In effect, the body interprets a supportive touch as ‘I’ll share the load.’”
Aha! This all makes sense now. As a childbirth labor helper, touch is my middle name. And I don’t mean, necessarily, the big guns like massage or physical therapy or the laborious double-hip squeeze and its relatives.
So often it’s nothing more than holding hands or letting a woman rest her forehead on my shoulder.
My touches are saying, “I’ll share the load.”
So my challenge to all of us is to think some about our touches, both the ones we receive and the ones we give. What are they intended to communicate? Are they doing the job?
Clearly, we’re a hurting people who hurt people, too, and many of us have been affected by UNloving touch. It’s important to remember, when touching people, that their bodies might interpret things differently thanks to a terrible reprogramming done by abuse or molestation.
Be careful. Be respectful.
But touch! It’s not likely you’ll overdo it — especially with your children or aging parents or friends, even. You don’t know, even, who especially needs it on any given day.
Even just sitting on the bus.
Goshen News columnist Stephanie Price is a wife, mother, teacher, childbirth educator, midwife’s assistant and nursing student from Elkhart. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org, 269-641-7249 or on Facebook at the page “Whole Family Column by Steph Price.”