The Power of Human Touch

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How many of you can recall when you would hurt yourself when you were young?  Perhaps falling while playing or taking a spill off your bike?  For some, although the hurt caused a tear or two to fall, the best thing about it was when our favorite loved adult would “kiss it to make it better”.  Often, we wouldn’t even need a Band-Aid or a visit to the doctor like we so desperately claimed.  What was wanted was that squeeze after the Band-Aid, that high-five after the tears, even simply sitting next to our loved one and feeling them there - that touch from that other person with whom we were close and loved held and carried a healing power. 

Children who are struggling with attachment disorders, people who have been victims of sexual assault or rape, and similarly, folks who battle with various levels of anxiety can benefit from the healing power of touch.  It is often assumed that it is babies who primarily benefit from touch and mainly from their mothers (or primary caregivers).  And, while this still holds truth, there are so many other opportunities that can provide healing.  Just a few examples are pain reduction, creating safer spaces, improve relationships between not just couples but also other dyads (siblings, parent/child, etc.).  Research has even shown that when a child is struggling in school, a small, simple touch on their shoulder from their teacher can provide just the right amount of encouragement to allow the child to begin to soar in their studies. 

Here are 4 simple reasons to consider the powerful, healing properties of the human touch:

1: Touch releases a chemical in our brains called oxytocin.  This chemical is like the cuddle switch.  When touch is wanted or desired, oxytocin is released.  Just 20 seconds of affectionate touching is enough to reduce our stress hormone and increase our cuddle hormone.  This can manifest safer spaces and increase trust, as well. 

2: When stress levels due to trauma or anxiety are at an all time high, our ability to experience what may seem to be compassion is muddled; especially when it is brought to us through only the spoken word.  It may seem silly but when words fail, touch may be the answer.  Touch can trigger our vagus nerve (the nerve that runs from the brain to the belly, passing the heart along the way), thus allowing us to be receptive to and to respond with compassion.

3: Not only can touch allow us to feel compassion, it also reduces stress.  Our stress hormone, cortisone, increases when we experience anxiety, trauma, stress from taking a test, falling off our bikes, etc.  A touch, even one that happens by accident, can reduce that stress hormone and lower blood pressure.  This means a happier heart.  Image the anxiety beginning to creep in because of a memory that has begun to invade your thoughts.  You are walking around work or school and can’t seem to calm it down.  Someone needs to walk past you and, gently, presses their hand on your arm to excuse themselves around you.  That one slight touch is just enough to not only distract you from your thoughts but also to decrease that cortisone that is about to sky high.

4: Touching between couples can increase trust, promote communication, and can improve relationship satisfaction.  Even the simple act of holding hands while watching a movie or hugging for just 20 seconds before leaving for work can begin to create that bond between couples.  This bond can be the foundation in which trust is rebuilt, safety is re-established, and communication is opened.

Everyone has a built in need to be touched, and yes, from birth.  However, it does not end once we reach a specific age.  It is a life-long desire for touch.  When it is practiced appropriately and respectfully, the human touch can be powerful healing aspect of the human experience.


By Léah Almilli

Is an Associate Marriage and Family Therapist. She works with children as young as 6 and adults as old as 88. She is fluent in American Sign Language and she teaches ASL at the local community college. Léah like to help people grow and feel better about themselves. Léah offers a holistic, client-centered approach to the process, allowing each person the opportunities to discover how their pasts can lead into their futures. Léah makes her therapy rooms warm, welcoming, non-judgmental, and compassionate to ensure that the clients can feel safe to explore what is needed.

Mindfulness Works

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Have you ever noticed while you are doing something like the dishes, driving, or even taking a shower that you aren’t really present? While in the shower, you may be focused on thinking about something other than your shower itself. Instead, try feeling the temperature of the water, or smelling the soap, or hearing the water flow. If you pay attention and become aware, you might really start to recognize that your body is feeling relaxed and relieved in the freshness of the shower. To be mindful is to be aware and awaken to what is arising in the present moment. It is something we can practice in our daily living, not just on a meditation cushion. The practice of mindfulness connects our mind, body, heart, and soul. Ultimately, it helps us to be more peaceful, clear, and confident about our lives regardless of what is arising.

We create a space for whatever arises without judging it. For example, when you are mindful, you will notice different emotions that you are experiencing at different times during the day: you might be feeling irritation or fear during a traffic jam, or while driving fast; you might feel relaxed or a sense of peacefulness after a massage or a warm cup of soup. Just simply being aware of the feeling which is arising and not judging it will allow it to be felt, accepted, and released. It's like treating everything that comes to your consciousness as if it is your friend and serving a purpose by conveying a message to you.

The benefits of mindfulness meditation are many. Some of the physical health benefits of mindfulness meditation include relieving stress, treating heart disease, lowering blood pressure, reducing chronic pain, and improving sleep. Mindfulness also helps with mental health by reducing symptoms of depression, eating disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorders, and anxiety, among others. It has been found to be helpful with those experiencing PTSD as well.

Mindfulness can be practiced anytime and anywhere. You can start by being mindful or aware of your breathing: relax your body with each breath as you inhale and with each breath that you exhale. With each breath, you can feel the coolness of the temperate of the air. With each outgoing breath, feel how warm it feels in your nostrils. You can take a mindful nature walk, enjoy sipping a cup of tea or even enjoy doing the dishes. You can even try practicing mindfulness when you are stuck in traffic!

Try it for a period of 30 days and see how it can benefit you.

If you want more information, or to work with a therapist who uses this technique, call us at Central Counseling Services at (951) 778-0230. I am available as a MFT intern, and other therapists utilize this technique as well.


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By Dhara Jani, MFT Intern

I want to help you feel relieved, balanced, and motivated to take the baby steps necessary to create the life of your dreams. I have been a certified life coach for several years, and find that I partner well with my clients to support them in creating the changes they need to make to meet their goals. I am nonjudgmental, patient, and approach their goals in a way that feels peaceful and helps them gain insight into the patterns they are wanting to break.

I am a member of the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists (CAMFT), a Certified Professional Life Coach and a Certified Yoga Teacher. I use mindfulness in my work, and teach the techniques to clients as part of their therapy. In my spare time, I enjoy walking in nature, mindfulness meditation, cooking, music, and spending time with friends and family.

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