Human touch is biologically good for you. It’s an evolutionary characteristic designed to improve our chances of social connection and therefore survival. Mammals are thought of as being built to touch, and touch has multiple benefits for humans. It can comfort, calm and de-stress but it also improves our emotional wellbeing as well as helping us connect with others.
Touch is also critical in immune function, because it reduces our cortisol levels. When cortisol levels are high, our immune system depletes – the exact opposite of what we need while attempting to guard against the wrath of COVID-19. Touch releases oxytocin too, the hormone released during sex and childbirth to bond us together. It’s why babies are placed on their parents’ chest and becomes effectively hardwired into our brains as a requirement for survival.
The deficit of touch that we’ve all faced during lockdown (the adult version of being placed on the ‘naughty step’) has been labelled by psychologists as ‘skin hunger’. This deficit of physical contact can cause a sense of stress or unhappiness.
So, what are some of the techniques we can use to help comfort ourselves through this socially distanced period?
Stroke an animal
You’ve probably noticed an abundance of dogs during your designated ‘outside exercise’. Dogs, of course, can inspire you to stretch your legs more often that you would have done pre-hound, but there is another reason to invest in any animal friend: petting animals is known to reduce stress and disperse tension. If you don’t have the space for a permanent pet, Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium lets you pet cats in London, while Dog and Scone in Newcastle is home to eight gorgeous puppies ready for cuddling.
If you don’t feel comfortable putting yourself into the hands of another person yet, giving yourself a scalp massage can help. Aesop Sage & Cedar Scalp Treatment, £25, and Kiehl’s Magic Elixir pre-shampoo treatment, £30, can both be used as part of a perfect pre-shower ‘ritual’ to soothe you.
Get yourself on TikTok and be inspired by the #hugcurtain trend, a DIY solution with 1.2 million views designed to allow individuals to hug safely by self-inventing protective gear with materials, such as plastic shower curtains (cuddle curtain, anyone?), to be able to touch or hug their loved ones with no health hazards.
Sex toy sales have rocketed since lockdown began, and self-pleasure can prove a helpful tool to help combat your touch drought. Slow, conscious touching of yourself can help reduce stress by activating pressure sensors under the skin and create a calming mind/body connection.. If you are new to self-touch , sales of the ‘Womanizer’ are reportedly off the charts for 2020, so head to lovehoney.com and gift yourself some featherlike caressing.
Havening techniques were originally developed to help people suffering from trauma. It’s a technique for self-soothing when moments feel intense. The technique teaches you to cross your arms over your body, place your palms on your shoulders, stroke your arms downward to your elbows, and repeat. While doing this, you can recite a simple mantra like “calm and safe” or remember a time when you felt calm or safe or confident (or whatever emotion you want to illicit), so that you can start to build positive associations and let the brain heal itself.
By Hannah Roberts