Vanity House

The power of Human Touch

Touch is our first sensation. The hand of a two-month-old human foetus will grasp when it feels something in its palm. A new-born baby will instinctively turn its head towards a touch on the cheek.

All over the world, children play tag without having to learn how. The earliest forms of medicine drew on this human need to touch and be touched. The practice of healing massage emerged in India, China and southeast Asia by the third millennium BCE, before spreading west. Asclepius, the Greek god of healing, cured people by touching them. The word surgeon originally meant hand healer, from the Greek for hand (kheir) and work (ergon). In the gospels, Jesus cures the sick with the laying on of hands.

Positive touch nurtures and nourishes our very being and is essential to our emotional and physical health.

How does human touch work? ‘There are various chemicals that are stimulated by physical touch, both in the giver and receiver – the feel-good chemical oxytocin is one of those chemicals,’ Gordon explains. ‘We have receptors in our skin that go to the brain.

When touch is given appropriately, the benefits affect everyone from newborns and new mums to the elderly and isolated.

This response to touch and skin movement decreases heart rate, blood pressure, and cortisol (the hormone released during stress and pain) while increasing oxytocin (a hormone released during moments of human connection associated with feelings of empathy and trust).

Regular hugs can also have a big impact on our health and wellbeing. One study showed frequent hugs between partners were associated with lower blood pressure and heart rates, and higher oxytocin levels in premenopausal women. The study also found those who hugged more often enjoyed better physical and psychological health, improved relationships and were better able to handle conflict.

The need for touch

We are biologically hard wired with the need:

  • to belong to a community

  • to physically and emotionally benefit from positive touch whatever our age. We have evolved with specific touch receptors, C fibres, that respond to the slow stroke of connecting touch.

In one famous experiment an anaesthetist visited a number of patients with similar symptoms, about to undergo the same operation. For half of the patients, he provided the usual brief information and check that all was well. For the other half he spent 5 – 10 minutes longer with them and made physical contact, holding their hands whilst talking to them.

After the operation, the patients who had received the caring touch asked for only half the amount of post-operative pain relief that the others requested, and they were sufficiently well recovered to leave the hospital 3 days earlier than the untouched patients.

Studies have shown that if praise is given in conjunction with touch, 85% of the time it is ‘heard’ as opposed to just 15% of the time if it is given purely verbally.

Yet crazily doctors are still being warned against touching their patients, and teachers forbidden – so scared are we of a recrimination.

“Touch has a memory.”

Our team at Vanity House are always aware of the powerful energy exchange from the human touch experience and it is an integral part of our philosophy to create a nurturing in salon experience for every soul that we come in contact with through the power of touch. From a gentle head or shoulder massage while your lash or brow treatment is taking place to a soothing and relaxing facial, we are always focused on ensuring our clients are receiving the attention and energetic exchange of physical touch therapy to help calm the body and relax the mind, which ultimately help reduce stress and release the ‘feel good’ hormones.

We understand that it can be the small things that make the biggest impact. Connections are vital to our existence and to touch and be touched is a part of being and feeling truly alive. We do not and should not have to be a massage therapist to offer a person loving, holding, connecting touch.

“It is hard to touch a heart without being willing to touch a person.”
Curtis Tyrone Jones

Finding a safe way of bringing touch back into our society is a serious and important conversation that we need to have.

“Touch comes before sight, before speech. It is the first language and the last, and it always tells the truth.”
Margaret Atwood

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