James and I had a busy, and incredibly inspiring weekend in Ashland. Saturday night we participated in an event called Love: Exposed, a collaboration between Love Revolution and ScienceWorks. The evening highlighted the science behind love and human relationships with activities including vibrator races, making Valentine’s cards, karaoke, a DJ, and a mixologist making delicious cocktails. There were multiple presenters each giving a 20 minute talk on topics including The Myth of The One, Pheromones & Intimacy, Orgasm, The Pleasure of Pain, and Arousal. James & I gave a Talk about Touch, emphasizing the power of healing touch. Touch, for me, is one of the most potent avenues to being Present. Because the sensations of the body only exist in the present moment, truly experiencing them brings us to presence.
Sunday afternoon we shared our Partner Yin Yoga Massage workshop, an opportunity for couples, or just a couple of friends, to create healing space for touch, applied in yin yoga poses, deepened with elements of Thai Yoga Massage. The room was filled with gooey loving, appreciation, sounds of enjoyment, smiles, laughter and potent presence!
I’m truly so grateful for the glimpse into a world of co-creating with my Beloved James, and the healing power of touch! I’m excited for our adventures and our passion to Create a Culture of Affection & Connection!
Here’s a little run down of the science behind touch:
- The Skin:
- A waterproof shield, protecting our precious insides from getting burned by the sun, helps to maintain a consistent body temperature through blood flow and perspiration.
- The only external organ, weights an average of 8 pounds, spread out into a human quilt spans about 22 square feet, and has over 4 million nerve receptors, mostly on the fingers, tongue and lips.
- Covered in antibacterial cells to ward off harmful viruses or chemicals.
- Utilizes the power of the sun to create Vitamin D for healthy bones (want strong, healthy bones? Go outside!).
- Neurochemistry activated by touch:
- Releases Oxytocin: “the cuddle hormone”helps affirm social relationships and community cooperation, supports a sense of connection.
- Decreases Cortisol: a stress hormone which narrows the arteries increasing heart rate.
- Increases Serotonin: balances the internal functions of the body with the external stimuli, involved in eating, sleeping, circadian rhythms and neuroendocrine function.
- Stimulates the thymus gland, which balances the body’s production of white blood cells, boosting our immune system keeping us healthy!
- Stimulates the vagus nerve, connected to our parasympathetic nervous system, controlling involuntary functions in the body like heart rate, blood pressure and food digestion~the vagus nerve helps decide if we are in a state of Rest & Digest or Fight or Flight.
- Stimulates movement of chi or life-force energy, helps to ease muscles and break up stagnant energy in the body.
Dr. Michael Hertenstein, director of the Touch and Emotion Lab at DePauw University, has brought the benefits of touch to light. He believes (and we agree), “Most of us, whatever our relationship status, need more human contact than we’re getting. Compared with other cultures, we live in a touch-phobic society that’s made affection with anyone but loved ones taboo.” The physiological, psychological and emotional benefits of touch are older than the cultural norms we’ve created around it. Clearly the level of affection in a culture is based on norms, not the biology of being human. In my experience of traveling to other parts of the world where affection is abundant and free-flowing, there’s a sense of joyfulness and connection that is up-lifting.
As babies we’re snuggled to be soothed, our hands are held to help us learn to walk, and we’re hugged and kissed as an expression of love. Premature babies who are held gain weight faster than those who aren’t given regular affection and touch. Non-human primates spend 20% of their time grooming each other. Imagine how your life would change if you could safely share touch more often, with more people. Touch with the intention of healing and connection (which can be sexual, but not necessarily), gives opportunities to affirm appreciation and social cooperation, relaxes the body and thus the mind, and allows for sharing intimacy without necessarily needing to verbalize. This video by Dacher Keltner gives a great run-down of the social benefits of touch.
As an Affection Advocate, here are some practical applications to get your Daily Dose of Touch:
- “Flirting” invites a spark of interest and an opportunity to connect and share touch. Adding a little touch of the arm or back during interactions gives us the flow of happy chemicals, and affirms our social web of connections.
- Take advantage of opportunities and tune into touch~walk barefoot on the Earth, feel the sun or a cool breeze on your skin, experience your food by eating with your hands, initiate self-massage, trade massages with a friend, notice the sensation of your skin and your breath.
- Share touch with your pet! There are also many benefits of having a pet, such as decreased stress and anxiety, improved memory, and increased cardiovascular health. We snuggle pretty hard core with our puppy Stitch!
Touch is fundamental to physical health, psychological and emotional well-being, and creating and maintaining connection with community. When we allow expression to be free-flowing we create more chances for casual, consistent connection, supporting our need for regular touch outside of primary relationships and families, which encourages a tighter and broader web of community. We can become present any moment we choose to pay attention to what we are touching. Reach out and connect more!