Wait, we need HOW many hugs?????
During a time of social distancing, when I hear studies that share we need 8 hugs a day for maintenance and 12 for growth, I feel more compelled than ever to share how important it is to get our hands on each other daily. But wait, what if this wasn’t part of our protocol before – do we really KNOW how to touch one another?
As a professional “toucher” (insert laughter here) with someone who frequently hears, “Gabby, you give some of the best hugs!” (Cringe, man-oh-man, how I miss my hugs!!!) I can say with confidence – we all KNOW how to touch – and at the same time – might need some tips if this wasn’t part of our everyday practice before.
As someone who holds this honored title – while I know it to be an innate skill (everyone is born with it), I have been given the honor to hone it over the years. And am more than happy to share some tips that might help fast track you in order to meet your daily quotient through this time of incredible change.
*****Giving and receiving touch should be consensual so be sure both parties agree to touch before proceeding. ALSO, traumatic events can store in our tissue, so even if touch is permitted, I encourage everyone to pay attention and stop if needed*****
Mindfulness tips to help increase touch between you and your loved ones:
- Set your intention to presence – be THERE!
A HUGE part of receiving touch is your partner’s nervous system. As cliche as the ‘journey vs. destination’ statement may feel – if your partner senses you are just trying to check this item off the box – they may have a more difficult time relaxing. So, when you are touching, do so with the intent to connect and feel. Provide the appropriate amount of time to do so and prepare yourself for what you – the toucher – may receive. Be it a hug OR a foot rub – our bodies will send information back to each other. If we are open to each other – there is no telling what our bodies might say that our words may not. Discovery can be a beautiful gift!
Also, if you intend to touch for a longer period of time, consider your environment to support presence through your senses – turn off phones, find a relaxing music or sound, check in on the temperature and aroma and find a comfortable position so your bodies can really relax.
2. Pay attention 🙂
Now that you are in it, whatever the touch may be, what the heck do we do with it???? Just like any communication (or discovery) this can be an incredible tool to learn more about your loved ones. As a practicing massage therapist over 15 years, little surprises me about what we like and don’t like. So, as you engage touch, pay attention to find out what your loved ones relax into or pull away from. One of the greatest gifts I can give my clients is just this – disconnecting from any preconceived notion and meeting them exactly where they are – some people HATE their feet while others can’t get enough. As the giver of touch I know it isn’t about me – it is about them. Nothing is more satisfying than hearing, “That was JUST what I needed!” Be it a 5 minute head scratch OR a 90-minute therapeutic massage!
3. Communicate <3
One of the greatest gifts my clients have given me is their honest feedback, which has built my hands ability to sense so sharply over time. So, the more you can engage your loved one AND be open to listening to their feedback, adjusting as you go – the greater the chance you can create a deep and trusting touch connection. And really, is there a greater compliment – someone who has come to trust your touch and openness to meet their needs? So, listen and watch the magic unfold – their feedback will guide you if you are so brave to let it!
4. Leave lots of room for laughter and learning!
This might be my favorite tip as any time we start something new, if we can allow for humor to guide our “bambi legs OR hands” that guidance will eventually navigate us to our north star. Nothing is more heart wrenching to me than comparison. If suddenly you are thrust into the responsibility of touch when it wasn’t yours before – there is a greater chance you will not meet that need of someone who was more aptly able. HOWEVER, touch is INNATE! So, laugh your way, talk your way, and guide each other to ultimate victory. As there is nothing more noble than someone willing to step up – effort over outcome!
5. Take your time!
Something I have learned – over many platforms – is to take my time. If I am trying a new technique or exercise – the slower I go, the greater the chance I have to build up a strong neural-pathway – and touch is no different. Once your hand has made contact, feel and breathe your way through the experience together, watching your partner as you go. With enough practice at the right speed, eventually, you will build the fluidity and grace that will bring contentment to you both!
Lastly, over the last 15 years, I have come to observe, there are certain areas of the body in which a general population REALLY love – so if touch is something new and you aren’t sure what you like, maybe start here until you discover your special touch needs:
- Feet and hands
- Gentle back and shoulders
- Head and neck
And how do we know if the touch we are given is “working”? While there are many ways in which to touch, as well as parts to administer that touch, here are a few general non-verbal body indicators that let you know you are on the right path:
- Your partner’s heart rate will begin to slow down.
- Their breathing may slow and drop down into their bellies.
- The weight of their body may feel heavier as they relax
- Their bellies may make noises, they may fall asleep and or drool or snore.
- Their nervous system may discharge “unneeded” energy which may feel like a twitch, heat rising, the body vibrating, etc.
At the end of the day, celebrate! These are incredibly challenging times encouraging us to dig deeper than ever – so, be kind and gentle to you and your loved ones as you navigate these unknown times and be sure to give ample credit where it is needed. Gratitude and acknowledgment go a long way in times like these and can help keep us together when the unknown may otherwise, tear us apart.
SO. MUCH. LOVE.
P.S. While my hands AND heart are missing mass physical connection and touch, I am embracing this time to really, COME HOME. Having just manifested the dream of a lifetime comes with its obvious sacrifices, many of which are gains through this time of change. So, in an effort to come home, stay home and love home, I am allowing my multiple intelligences to lead the way when crafting my schedule each day to really get the most out of this time. And that really is different each day.
I am allowing my body to wake naturally, cooking more in the kitchen and reading – oh how I missed reading – just to name a few. Really it is about connecting and listening and deciding what to do with the messages while not getting hung up critically on what might be right or wrong.
As a dear runner friend shared with me – Gabby, I gotta run with my feels – trusting the process as I go, and that my friends is precisely my intention too – I am living with the feels, trusting this process as I go!
Massage Therapist and Trauma Touch Therapist