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The Power of Touch

Recently I caught up on some podcasts I usually listen to.  In ’Zoe, Science & Nutrition’, Jonathan Wolf interviewed Dr Rangan Chatterjee on 8th February 2024 discussing ‘Beat Stress with Science’.  Their conversation touched upon four key methods for managing stress: Breathing, Movement & Exercise, Touch (Dr Chatterjee specifically highlighted Reflexology) and Journaling.

In a previous blog post, 'Stress and its Personal Effects’ I delved into the importance of stress management.  The World Health Organisation has labelled stress as the silent epidemic of the 21st century a statement made even before the onset of the 2020 pandemic.

Stress is implicated in causing 60-80% of our health problems.  However, it’s not all doom & gloom.   Humans are remarkably resilient; we can handle stress but also need daily moments to recuperate.   Touch is often underestimated, it is a potent antidote to stress (when welcomed). Whether it's a comforting arm around you when you are upset or simply holding hands,  the connection can yield an almost immediate response.

Unfortunately, touch is gradually disappearing from our lives, even predating the pandemic.  Touch releases endorphins and triggers responses in our brains.  Without these natural endorphins from touch, we seek out alternative rewards, often turning to food (especially sugar)  as it now elicits a smilier reward response.  Similarly, notifications on devices are engineered to provide rewards enticing us to spend more time on them.

Professor McGlone a specialist in Neuroscience, at Liverpool John Moores University, asserts "Touch is not just a sentimental human indulgence, it’s a biological necessity”.  Our biological wiring responds to gentle stroking touch at an emotional level rather than merely sensing it.  Without it, our mental health and well-being suffer.

McGlone’s research focuses on our nerve fibres’ responses to touch, elucidating how fast nerve fibres alert us to an event (like a child falling over and rubbing their knee), followed by the delayed emotional response from the slow touch fibres, often leading to tears.

His findings indicate that the emotional quality of touch, particularly from the slower signals like C-Tactile afferents (CT’s), reduces Cortisol, Heart Rate, and Blood Pressure and boosts immune cells to combat infection.

Touch is indispensable for our daily well-being and should be prioritised Whether it’s self-massage, stroking a pet or physical contact with loved ones, incorporating touch into our routines is vital.   Reflexology, a touch therapy, offers additional benefits, providing dedicated time for touch, thereby reducing stress levels and enhancing overall health and well-being.

PB x


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