The healing power of touch is often underestimated and passed off as a luxury, but research and experience has taught us that touch is an important part of the way we care for one another, and how we stay feeling connected. It’s for this reason, amongst others, that touch therapies such as massage can prove much more meaningful than simply being the solution to a knotted muscle. The lack of touch is something that has had a significant impact on the mental health and wellbeing of many, particularly for those isolating alone, throughout lockdown.
“The main hormone and neurotransmitter affiliated with human touch is oxytocin. Research has found that oxytocin contributes to levels of relaxation, trust, and psychological stability. In addition, brain oxytocin has been found to reduce stress responses, including anxiety.”
– Reader’s Digest
In last month’s UK Spa Association newsletter, Juliet Wheater, wrote:
“Perhaps one of the toughest things about lockdown for many of us is not being able to see our friends or family. To not feel the touch of their embrace. They say you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone, and human touch has been in short supply during the worldwide pandemic… The benefits of human touch, and the biological releases that come with it, can manifest positively in mental and physical health. Physical touch increases levels of dopamine and serotonin, two neurotransmitters that help regulate mood as well as help the body relieve stress and anxiety. Dopamine is also known to regulate the pleasure centre in your brain, which is a good counter to feelings of anxiety. Touch appears to stimulate our bodies to react in very specific ways. The right kind can lower blood pressure, heart rate, and cortisol levels and drive the release of a host of hormones and neuropeptides that have been linked to positive and uplifting emotions. There’s no doubt that the physical effects of touch are abundant.”
Those of us who have had spa treatments in the past will recognise many of the feelings Wheater writes about, even if we have not properly identified what and why we feel them post-treatment. At Spabreaks.com we have always considered one of the most important things about a spa experience to be the time it gives us to reconnect with our bodies, be in the moment and experience a kind and healing touch. It is the reason many people feel a whole range of emotions during a treatment, some, who might have been going through a particularly hard time, might even be moved to tears, such is the emotional release and sense of wellbeing.
“People with no history of mental illness are developing serious psychological problems for the first time as a result of the lockdown, amid growing stresses over isolation, job insecurity, relationship breakdown and bereavement, the Royal College of Psychiatrists has disclosed.”
– The Guardian
Of course, that’s not to dismiss the physical healing and wellbeing that comes from helping tight muscles to relax or that jaw of yours to unclench. We are generally all aware by now the mind and body are connected, and the space, support and therapy that touch therapies and spa experiences are able to give us are certainly luxurious, but that doesn’t mean that they are not necessary as well.
We have all been through a traumatic start to the year. Some have been hit harder than others, but we have all had a sense of anxiety, fear and separation that has an impact on mental as well as physical wellbeing. While a massage is clearly not going to be the solution to all of life’s problems, it can be a joyful part of the healing process - and healing is something we could all do with a little of right now.