We’re touch-deprived in this culture, in the States. I wonder when we began to make those conscious decisions to be less forth-coming with our physical gestures towards others. It was likely born out of hygienic reasons, avoiding getting sicknesses from others. And it probably just stuck around after that. Compared to other countries, we are way less touchy with each other. Way less. Conversations observed by psychologist Sidney Jourard in the 1960s between friends in different countries as they sat together in a cafe found Americans touched each other twice in an hour. In France, that number was 110. In Puerto Rico, the number of times friends touched during conversation rose to 180.
Touch is vital to our physical and mental health. When we are touched in a compassionate way, it sends signals of comfort to the reward center of our brain. Our nervous system quiets down which in turn creates a cascade of positive physiological effects through the body. We become aware of another person’s attention towards us and we feel connected, seen, and safe. The giver and the receiver benefit mutually.
With so much research out there about the positive benefits of touch, why is it still rather taboo to reach out to another person? Sure, we often do this for our loved ones, but even in those relationships it can sometimes feel too awkward to do so. But by not engaging others through touch, we’re missing out.
I am so passionate about massage therapy, partly because it helps fill this void in our culture. For an hour or more, you’ve given me permission to provide you with something that is such an elemental need of ours as humans – to be touched. The restoration the body receives during this time is unmatched.
Massage is great for releasing muscular tension, but I believe it’s providing a much greater overall benefit than just the physical aspect. I don’t know about you, but after I receive a massage I feel completely transformed. I’m connected to my body again. I feel comforted and way less stressed. My sense of overall well-being is significantly increased. My purpose for living is restored. What a powerful experience!
Incorporating more touch into our daily lives is a challenge. But, as this writer discovered, opportunities will present themselves. We all crave connection in this life and deserve to feel it. Michelangelo said, “To touch can be to give life.” The power to restore another human being through a compassionate touch is yours. Won’t you reach out to someone today?