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  • Writer's pictureJan Johnson

Why Is the Power of Touch So Important?

Baby holding parent's finger
Touch is the first sense we aquire

I am writing this at the height of the Coronavirus global pandemic. It is a worrying, tragic and surreal situation here in the UK and across the world with whole populations in ‘lock-down’, under government emergency directives to stay at home. All normalcy has paused. Planet Earth is holding her breath until this deadly wave has passed. We can only go out for exercise and to buy food with every activity and business deemed non-essential (including my reflexology business, sadly), closed until further notice.

The expressions; ‘Social distancing’ and ‘Self-isolation’ bombard our consciousness almost continually. We literally must keep apart for our own and other people’s protection from the virus. Separate, divided and remote; no longer connected to friends, colleagues, clients and worst of all, family. As technology attempts to fill the void, we have become virtual, unflattering heads on a screen, fuzzy and slightly out of sync.

I deliver the weekly shop to my Dad who is in his mid-eighties and therefore ‘self-isolating’ at home. We chat while keeping our ‘social distance’ but I cannot go in. I leave with a cheery wave and a ‘See you next week’ in a pretence of normality. Dad waves from the door as I drive away. There is no touch, no hug, no kiss; it breaks my heart.

older couple hugging each other
A hug is good for our physical and mental well-being

Now that it is denied to us, the power of touch and social contact have become highlighted like never before, as hugely important to our human make-up. We are social animals and long before we evolved a voice we communicated by touch. Touch is the first sense that we acquire; it is a language that we instinctively use to convey emotions and compassion. In touch we strengthen our social bonds; we receive comfort, love and encouragement. It enhances our relationships, increases cooperation, attachment and a sense of trust.

In addition to our physical well-being, touch is equally important to our mental health. When pressure receptors in the skin are stimulated, it has the effect of lowering cortisol (the stress hormone) and increasing oxytocin (known as the ‘cuddle hormone’) that contributes to relaxation. Our heart rate slows and blood pressure lowers; we feel calmer, less stressed, happier and more positive. Research has shown touch to also have a protective effect by aiding our immune system. A hug exerts gentle pressure on the sternum, creating an emotional charge. This activates the Solar Plexus Chakra and stimulates the thymus gland which is an important organ of the immune system.

As a reflexologist I naturally use touch at the centre of what I do. It is a physical therapy and whether performed on the feet, hands or ears, it has a powerful effect on the body for all the reasons I have mentioned. This is why physical complementary therapies are so beneficial to maintaining natural balance and overall health.

During these separated, locked-down times whilst Coronavirus rages, I am mourning the loss of touch; the connection I have with my clients and my family. Touch comes to us so naturally; it entwines throughout our lives without notice. Its value to our physical health and emotional well-being has no match. We must now cherish our power of touch all the more; when life eventually returns to normal.

I hope you keep safe and well and I will see you soon. x

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