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A behind-the-scenes look at Terranam Wellness & self-care tips for taking better care of yourself.
BY MARIA GARRIDO - 2 MINUTE READ
The profound influence of touch and its capacity to heal.
I've never been one to shy away from touch. I instinctively reassure people with a light touch on the arm; I enjoy a warm hug from my grown up boys, I welcome a tender pat on the back and I don't mind greeting my Latin family and friends with a kiss on the cheek.
BUT, I will admit that after so many years as an expat in Paris, I'm a little tired of the double kiss hello with colleagues or people I don't know. Depending on where you are in the country, it can even go up to 4 kisses per person! This can become a dizzying experience when you go to a party and spend hours pecking people you don't know! I'll embarrassingly admit that I was relieved that, since the COVID pandemic, this practice has been slow to come back!
All jokes aside, even if we all have different levels of acceptance to touch, there is no question that the simple act of touch can have a profound impact on our physical, emotional and spiritual selves.
THE UNIVERSAL LANGUAGE
Regardless of the culture you come from, touch is instinctively the way we often communicate with others. Think about the way you greet in different cultures. My years living in the United States is marked by many a hug followed by a pat-pat on the back while in Spain few people shy away from open displays of affection, romantic or otherwise. In India you can spot friends holding hands while in Argentina, it's not uncommon to see two male friends kiss each other on the cheek as a warm hello. Even traditional practices like Reiki and Ayurveda use the potency of touch to heal.
The true strength of touch lies in its ability to convey emotions and empathy without uttering a single word, in any language. Before babies can speak, we communicate with them through holding, cuddling, rocking and carrying them close. Not surprisingly, touch plays a crucial role in our development. Babies who are regularly held and touched gain weight faster, develop stronger immune systems, crawl and walk sooner, sleep more soundly and cry less than babies deprived of close physical contact. Sadly, studies have shown that babies who are deprived of human touch can experience stunted growth, not to mention a myriad of psychological issues.
NURTURING OUR NEURAL PATHWAYS
It isn't an accident that we feel comforted when a loved one squeezes our hand. Behind the soft touch and warm embrace lies a fascinating dance of chemical reactions within our bodies. When we touch or are touched, the brain releases a cascade of wondrous neurotransmitters like oxytocin and serotonin, aptly dubbed the "happy hormones." These beautiful messengers foster feelings of trust, bonding, and reduce stress and anxiety.
And just like babies, the power of touch extends beyond our adult brains. Regular physical contact can enhance the function of our immune system, lower blood pressure, and even speed up the healing process. The nurturing touch of a loved one can create a safe cocoon of healing where our bodies and souls can rejuvenate.
DIFFERENT STROKES FOR DIFFERENT FOLKS
Tolerance to touch varies widely among individuals and can be influenced by various factors, including cultural norms, personal experiences, the relationship with the person initiating the touch, sensory processing, and emotional factors. When we interact with others, we need to be mindful of these differences.
Although most people have a moderate level of sensitivity to touch, tolerance for touch can vary from hyper to hypo. If you have children, you know what it's like to go from having cuddly cuties who want to hold your hand to teenagers who steer clear of hugs and kisses from their parents. Beyond typical adolescents, some individuals find physical contact uncomfortable because they have hightened sensory perception; they can feel overwhelmed by certain textures or sensations. Even individuals with high tolerance for touch, who may enjoy handshakes and contact sports, have their own likings and limits.
If you're a hugger, you need to acknowledge that some people may not enjoy you coming in for the bear squeeze, so you should be respectful of their preferences. Respecting individual boundaries regarding touch is crucial for maintaining positive interactions and relationships. Always ask for consent before initiating physical contact and be attentive to nonverbal cues that indicate comfort or discomfort.
TOUCH AT TERRANAM
We believe in the power of touch to heal and reduce levels of stress, helping us relax. During our retreats, our guests are given plenty of opportunities to connect through touch with others, with nature and with themselves.
Whether they are establishing their own body consciousness with Belen's healing massages, getting a warm hug from Javi, feeling the freshness of the ocean water on their skin or walking barefoot on the grass, our guests are given plenty of opportunities to reawaken the sense of touch in themselves.
SELF CARE TIP
There are plenty of everyday activities that provide opportunities to use touch as a way to connect and bond with yourself and others. Here are a few simple tips you can try this week to awaken the benefits of touch in your life:
1. If you're like me, you LOVE a head massage at the hair salon! If you're due for a haircut, don't hesitate to tune in to the tingling sensation on your scalp and release stored tension.
2. Don't forget the gift of self-touch. Cradle your own face and take a deep breath.This is a tender and profound act of self-compassion.
3. Cuddle with a partner or a pet. It can provide comfort and enhance feelings of connection.
4. If you have elderly relatives, show them emotional support with a comforting hand on the shoulder or a gentle squeeze of the arm.
5. Nurture nature's touch: walk barefoot in the garden, touch a tree or caress the velvety skin of a flower petal.