Did you ever get a hug from someone — a partner, a parent, your best friend — and notice the way your happiness quotient immediately increases? As you are enveloped by more than just a physical presence, your body, mind and spirit become at ease, and you feel supported, loved and connected. This is the power of touch.
The skin is the largest organ of the body, and through touch, we satisfy one of our most basic and primal needs. Physical contact represents one of our deepest connections to the world and to ourselves. Human touch lowers blood pressure, heart rate and stress hormones, and it reduces anxiety by boosting positive moods and triggering the release of oxytocin, the “love hormone,” which leads to a greater sense of well-being.
We can practice deeper connections by focusing on intentions and creating positive feelings and energy, even before we physically connect. It all starts with a deep breath; notice how it makes you feel. Cultivate an awareness of the way you want to touch — an intention of connection, the touch before the touch — whether it’s for another person or yourself.
Now, bring your attention to the palms of your hands — you might notice a tingle, a pulsing sensation, or slight vibration. Channel your intention through your hands. Slowly come into the touch, noticing the space right before you lay your hands on yourself or another. You might even feel the reciprocal connection of a body touching your hands, not just your hands touching a body. That’s it. Enjoy the deeper connection, and explore the myriad of ways to introduce or increase touch in your life:
Do not miss an opportunity to get your dose of touch when you see someone you love. A fist bump is great, a handshake is better, a touch on the shoulder is wonderful, but a hug (when you really mean it!) is golden. Besides creating a bond, an intentional hug lowers stress and boosts the immune system; it is comforting and helps us feel safe. It aids our sleep, decreases depression, and increases energy while improving concentration. Most simply, it brightens our day.
Connecting with your pet can be just as therapeutic as a massage or hug from a human. This simple exposure to our pets helps us reduce stress and anxiety, and has significant benefits on our physical and mental health. There is something very meditative about this connection; we receive as we give. To learn more, “Guardians of Being” by Eckhart Tolle offers a lighthearted and heartwarming glimpse into the unconditional and profound love between humans and our pets.
Touching yourself with positive intentions is an act of self-love. Self-massage is a way to treat your body with the care it deserves. It also has greater implications on our health and wellness: what better way to get to know your body? Explore self-touch in a less clinical or judgmental way. Find a pleasantly scented lotion or oil, and start by rubbing it into your hands to warm it up. Cultivate an intention before you touch, and start slowly. Activate all of your senses — look at your body, inhale the scent of the lotion, and feel your hands on your skin. Allow your muscles to relax underneath your touch. Let your hands receive the pleasure as much as your body does. Touch is a powerful meditation — an opportunity to embrace yourself — and creates a fertile landscape for mental and emotional healing. It’s a practice of union, a coming together and a recognition of the way we hold and let go.
We hold a unique potential for healing right in our own hands, which is especially meaningful during an experience with cancer. It’s helpful, if not imperative, to make touch a daily practice and part of your self-care routine — use it in your self-exams, while allowing it to deepen feelings of self-love. Who doesn’t want more of that?