Right from the time we are born, humans begin to thrive on the sensation of touch. The tender touch from a mother embracing her newborn infant imparts mental, emotional, and physical well-being to the baby. The sensation of touching provides emotional nourishment to those involved, and it also releases endorphins which make people feel good. Senior home care professionals understand the power of touch and recommend that all senior patients in Water Valley and elsewhere engage in touching whenever it’s practical and acceptable to do so. With National Hugging Day scheduled for January 21st, now is a good time to embrace those around you, to make yourself feel good and to impart a sense of good feeling to the person you hug as well.
The therapeutic power of touch
The skin is the largest organ in the human body (yes, it’s an organ!), and in addition to protecting the interior organs, it provides another essential function to humans – it serves as the pathway for touching. For our long-term well-being and health, touch is just as important as any other bodily function. A great many emotions and feelings can be imparted to another individual simply by touching.
A gentle touch can be reassuring, it can convey friendship or love, it can indicate a shared experience, or it can mean to slow down or stop what you’re doing. The context usually makes spoken words irrelevant, and the person being touched can almost always surmise the feeling that is intended by the person touching them. Touching can make you feel closer to someone, it can calm you down, and it can make you feel like you’re being better understood by someone. By contrast, when there’s an absence of touching, a person can feel isolated and left out, estranged from society in general.
As powerful as positive touching can be when there are good intentions behind it, that’s just how hurtful it can be when touching is done with a negative intent. Some touching can even have catastrophic results when there are negative intentions behind it, and especially when it is unwelcome on the part of the recipient. The point is, that touching with negative intent can also be very powerful, and can be felt very deeply by both parties involved.
Lack of touching
In today’s society, there are strong boundaries which surround the usage of touch, and this is probably a good thing for most people because everyone needs to feel safe in their home and in other social settings. However, when people withdraw from touching altogether, it can leave them in a state of ‘touch deprivation’, which means that they never have the chance to feel the positive effects of good touching, and they probably don’t get to experience connections with other humans as deeply.
Over a prolonged period of time, this can cause a person to withdraw from society, anticipating that no one else wants to touch them and that they are unworthy of being touched. Studies have shown that this perspective can have very harmful effects on a person’s attitude and that in turn can have a ripple effect on their state of well-being and their health.
Mother Teresa and the power of touch
Mother Teresa was quoted as saying that many people on earth have died every day of the year because they were unloved, rather than because they were hungry, very poor, or suffering from health issues. She recognized that there was an extraordinary power in touch, and that’s why she personally bathed the wounds of lepers, so they would know someone cared, and that they were truly loved. We can all take a cue from Mother Teresa in applying her insights to people we know in our own social circles.
When people we know are experiencing grief, a gentle touch can work wonders to help restore them to a more positive attitude. It’s usually fairly easy to identify when anyone we know is hurting inside, and that’s when the extraordinary power of positive touching can be used to help bring them around.
Special therapists have studied the underlying mechanisms of grief, and have integrated traditional Chinese medicine with what’s known as polarity therapy to achieve a balanced distribution of energy flowing through the body. Polarity therapy is a treatment system often prescribed in alternative medicine, and massage therapists who incorporate this in their healing techniques feel strongly that by enhancing the body’s circulation, it will help to release physical, spiritual, and emotional blockages which grieving people typically suffer from.
Go out and hug someone
What all this means for seniors is that you should not isolate yourself from others, and from the positive effects of good touching. It can literally shape your entire perspective on life, and it can make you feel better almost instantly when someone hugs you. To get the most benefit from the extraordinary power of touch, you should find someone in your immediate social circle and ask if they would mind being hugged. It might surprise them, but it might also be something very beneficial for both of you, and it will undoubtedly make both of you feel much better.