“Touch comes before sight, before speech. It is the first language and the last, and it always tells the truth.”
― Margaret Atwood
Touch is a powerful sense for interacting with the world around us — and for interacting with one another. As so many of us know, infants who receive little to no touch literally wither. As adults, physical contact is important, too. Whether this touch is through hugging, getting a massage, shaking hands, or petting a dog or cat, physical touch balances us, connects us, and ultimately heals us.
There is a research organization in Miami called The Touch Research Institute; this institute’s sole purpose is to study the positive effects of touch on various populations with varying circumstances.
For instance, check out this page in which massage was the medium for evaluation, and here’s an example of one case in which adolescents with anxiety were evaluated:
Field, T., Morrow, C., Valdeon, C., Larson, S., Kuhn, C. & Schanberg, S. (1992). Massage reduces anxiety in child and adolescent psychiatric patients. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 31, 125-131.
METHODS: A 30-minute back massage was given daily for a 5-day period to 52 hospitalized depressed and adjustment disorder children and adolescents. RESULTS: Compared with a control group who viewed relaxing videotapes, the massage subjects were less depressed and anxious and had lower saliva cortisol levels after the massage. In addition, nurses rated the subjects as being less anxious and more cooperative on the last day of the study, and nighttime sleep increased over this period. Finally, urinary cortisol and norepinephrine levels decreased, but only for the depressed subjects.
How powerful that not only were qualitative responses positive, but that the stress hormone cortisol had dropped!
Try this: Take stock about the role of touch in your life. How often do you receive therapeutic or healing/comforting touch, even in small way s or gestures? How comfortable are you with touch? Do you like to receive or give touch? When has the sense of touch been healing for you and why?