The power of positive touch

The power of positive touch. How important it is to touch and hold the ones we love!

The power of positive touch has so many wonderful benefits. I am sure most of us are aware how amazing positive touch can feel, but in our modern hectic lives, when it is too easy to lose ‘touch’ with our children, our partners and our parents, most of us are becoming deprived of the huge benefits of positive touch.

I trained to be an aromatherapist 16 years ago and an infant massage instructor not long after. Even at that point in time, such therapies were seen by some as indulgent, and by others as just weird. However culture in northern England has changed in a short period of time and infant massage is now a regular session for many new parents to attend in their local children’s centre. When sharing this experience with new parents, helping them see the huge benefits to massaging their children every day, I also try to encourage them to continue the experience for longer than the few weeks they attend a class.

So what are the benefits of infant massage; it helps digestion and gives relief from wind, colic and constipation, improves blood circulation, enhances development of the nervous system , helps babies relax and sleep better (and so the rest of the family too!), improves the immune system, supports the release of oxytocin, the nurturing hormone. The special one on one time helps deepen the bond between parents and baby, enhance intimacy, understanding and ability to nurture. The parent’s confidence increases and sensitivity to baby’s cues, and the ability to understand the specific needs of the baby.

So with all that why wouldn’t we continue to massage our children? In the groups I share many ideas of how to continue the massaging, but I know most parents get distracted by the demands of life.  The needs of other children, partners, work, it becomes more tricky as children learn to crawl, walk and explore and generally other things take priority.

In antenatal classes I discuss at length the role of oxytocin.  It is often called the hormone of love, and has been described as the ‘most amazing molecule in the world’ (Dvosrky 2012). It supports strong, regular contractions in labour, it is involved in the care giving instincts for new parents and is passed on to babies during breastfeeding. It can also therefore help combat postnatal depression in new parents, and help alleviate depression and low mood generally. It is released during sex, and helps the body achieve orgasm, however just hugging someone can release it too.   It induces feelings of optimism, increases self-esteem, and builds trust.  It therefore can help people overcome their social inhibitions and fears. It can help relieve pain, due it its anti-inflammatory properties and it has even been shown to increase generosity!

So maybe if we understood the difference touch can make, and the benefits of all that wonderful oxytocin swimming around in our systems we would make a few moments in the day, and reach out and touch someone. Go on, massage your teenagers (smelly?) feet whilst they are lolling on the sofa, make time to massage your child’s back during their bedtime story, or massage your parents’ hands as a treat, and see the difference for yourself!

References:

Dvosrky G, 2012, http://io9.com/5925206/10-reasons-why-oxytocin-is-the-most-amazing-molecule-in-the-world

International Association of Infant Massage, 2012, www.iaim.ws/Benefits.html

What is Oxytocin and How Does It Affect the Body?