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Laura J. Neuhalfen RN, CNEH, Reiki Master
1. ANATOMY OF SKIN 2. RESEARCH OF TOUCH 3. CREATING A RELATIONSHIP WITH YOUR HANDS 4. MAPPING THE CONNECTION FROM TOUCH 5. SETTING HEALTHY BOUNDERIES 6. TOUCH WITH INTENTION 7. GIVING AND RECEIVING
SKIN Our skin is the largest organ of our body. Let’s take a look at some of the physical attributes of the skin. In a grown man it covers about 19 square feet and weighs 8 lbs. A piece of skin the size of a quarter contain more than 3 MILLION cells, 100 to 340 sweat glands, 50 nerve endings and 3 feet of blood vessels. (www.tuberose.com) Our skin is an organ made up of a double-layered tissue that stretches over the surface of our body. One of the jobs of our skin is to protect us from drying or losing fluid, from harmful external substances, and from extremes of temperature. The inner layer, called the dermis, contains sweat glands, blood vessels, nerve endings (sense receptors of touch), and the bases of hair and nails. The outer layer, the epidermis, is only a few cells thick; it contains pigments, pores, and ducts, and its surface is made of dead cells that it sheds from the body. (Hair and nails are adaptations arising from the dead cells.) The sweat glands excrete waste and cool the body through evaporation of fluid droplets; the blood vessels of the dermis supplement temperature regulation by contracting to preserve body heat and expanding to dissipate it. Separate
kinds of receptors convey pressure, temperature, and pain. Touch is accomplished by nerve endings in the skin that communicate sensations to the brain via nerve fibers. Nerves end in or between the cells of the epidermis, the outer layer of the skin, in all parts of the body. Our skin plays the role of protector against the physical environment. But is also is our protector in the emotional environmental. We use our skin to protect us from emotions by either allowing or not allowing touch. In instances of trauma, many will pull inward and not allow touch. It is instinctive to pull back from someone who is projecting a negative emotion. So now we know that our skin plays a major role in how we interpret the world around us.
RESEARCH Our need to touch and be touched is with us from birth to death. We need touch as much as we need food and water. In the 19th century, more that half of all infants in their first year of life died from a disease called Marasmus, a Greek word for “wasting away”. Doctors later discovered that this disease was caused by a lack of touch: babies not touched on a regular basis would literally starve themselves to death. (“The Touch Deficit” by Patti Wood, MA, CSP www.Pattiwood.net) Another extraordinary study completed in the 20th century by Ashley Monatgu, a touch researcher, found that children deprived of loving touch suffer the consequences in their bones – small lines of retarded growth, known as Harris lines, appear at the ends of the tibia and the radius. The findings of this study concluded that touch affects us to our very core. (Ashley Monatgu 1986) The Touch Research Institute that was set up by the University of Miami’s school of Medicine in 1992 did a worldwide research on touch. The findings established that there are two types of cultures – “high touch”, such as France, Italy and Greece, and “low touch”, such New Zealand, Australia,
Britain and the United States. Some of the research involved observing couples in cafes for 30 minutes and recording their touching. In Paris, the “touch rate” was 110 times over half an hour. In Miami, couples made physical contact just twice in the same time. Researchers also compared physical contact in preschool playgrounds. In Paris, children touched one another affectionately 23 percent of the time; in Miami, they did so only 3 percent of the time. Aggressive touching occurred 37 percent of the time in the Miami playground, but only 1 percent in the Paris preschool. The institute’s researchers went on to establish a worldwide correlation between hightouch cultures and low rates of suicide, abuse and depression. Italy had the lowest rates of suicide and ranked in the highest of high-touch cultures. www.TRI.com Through the research done on the importance of touch, scientist have shown that the amount of touch contact in our lives plays a crucial role in our psychological and physical development as babies as well in our pleasure and vitality as adults. Touch is essential for the emotional, physical and spiritual well being of all humans. Yet, studies show that we lack the very thing that we crave. TOUCH.
CREATING A RELATIONSHIP WITH YOUR HANDS Imagine that you hold the power to that will: Reduce stress Calm anxiety and depression Strengthen the immune system Enhance recovery from surgery Deepen a spiritual connection Create a sense of well-being Manage pain Foster peace of mind Enhance the capacity for calm thinking You do hold the power. It is found within your hands. We instinctively touch a child on the forehead when they are sick. The touch brings a sense of calm. Both parties involved in the touch (the giver and the receiver) are rewarded with a sense of calm. You cannot touch someone without the touch also affecting you. Take a moment and look at you hands. I mean really look at them. Notice the shape of your palms and length of your fingers. Our hands are truly the extension of “who” we are.
We use our hands as tools to reach and grasp, but when was the last time we used our hands to just simply touch? To begin to understand the benefits of touch we must first feel comfortable with touch ourselves. The following exercise should be done in a quiet place and only takes about 5- 15 minutes. The more you do this exercise the greater the outcome. This exercise will give you all the benefits of touch. Five to fifteen minutes a day will give a lifetime of rewards. So find a comfortable position, either sitting in a comfortable chair or lying down. Remove glasses for this exercise. You will need to be able to make full contact with the face. To receive the fullest benefits of this exercise it is best if your hands do not loose contact with the body/skin. Once in the comfortable position put your hands together, palm to palm. Use a gentle touch. Softly touch your fingers together. Close your eyes. Take a deep breath. Don’t rush. Feel the sensation. You may feel heat or a tingling or nothing at all. Take some slow deep breaths. Gently place your hands on the top of your head. Breathe. Feel the
sensation. Don’t rush. Check the emotion felt. Do your feel a sensation on your hands or your head? Now slowly move your hands from the top of your head and rest the palms on the sockets of your eyes. Let your fingertips rest on your forehead. Breathe. Feel the sensation. Don’t rush. Be aware of the emotional feeling as well as the physical sensation. Take a deep breath before you move your hands. Slowly move your hands down your face, cupping your chin in your palms. Let your finger rest on your cheeks or along the side of your face. Take a deep breath. Feel the sensation. Relax. Check the emotions. What are your feelings? Gently slide your hands down to your throat area; a light touch is most comfortable here. Take one hand and put behind your neck. So you have one hand resting gently on your throat and the other on the back of your neck. Breathe. Feel the sensation. Don’t rush. Next, place the palms of your hand on your chest. Let the fingertips rest where they may. Your hands will be stacked with fingers pointing in opposite directions. Breathe in deep. Feel the sensation. Think loving thoughts. Again, check the emotions. Allow any emotion to arise.
Let your hands slide down to your stomach. Breathe in deep. Feel the sensation. Relax your shoulders. Because the stomach’s area is below the rib cage to the thighs you may want to take extra time here and gently move your hands around to cover the entire area. Remember to check the emotions. Don’t rush. Breathe deep. Slowly move your hands to the top of your thighs. Keep the touch light. You may want to softly stroke your thighs. Breathe in deep. Relax. Feel the sensation from your hands to your body. Next touch your knees. Again, breathe in. Relax. Don’t rush. Check to see if your shoulders are still relaxed. Breathe and check your emotions. If it is comfortable to touch your feet, do so. First touch the top of your feet. Breathe. Relax. Move one hand to the sole of the foot. So the foot is sandwiched between the hands. Do both feet. Feel the sensation. Breathe. After the touch on the feet, place your hands on your lap with the palms facing up. At this point it is okay to loose contact with your body. Fingers are relaxed. Take some deep breathes. Take a moment to think about the feelings. Check the physical body. Do you feel relaxed? How do you feel emotionally?
MAPPING THE CONNECTION So how does the touch sensation go from the skin to the emotion? Have you ever felt the touch of someone’s hand on your shoulder and feel yourself letting go? But just how the touch sends the message to release emotion is still is under research. One of the diagnostic tools used in the research of touch is the MRI. Resonance Imaging (MRI), medical diagnostic technique that creates images of the body using the principles of nuclear magnetic resonance. A versatile, powerful, and sensitive tool, MRI can generate thin-section images of any part of the body—including the heart, arteries, and veins— from any angle and direction, without surgical invasion and in a relatively short period of time. MRI also creates “maps” of biochemical compounds within any cross section of the human body. These maps give basic biomedical and anatomical information that provides new knowledge. Microsoft ® Encarta ® 2006. © 19932005 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved The use of the MRI was used in the research of touch by Lucy Brown, Neuroscientist. Current research tracks the impact of touch on the brain with functional MRI. (FMRI) FMRI can
detect activity in different brain areas by measuring the increase in blood flow that is correlated with an increase in neuronal activity. While this research is still in its infancy, it holds some promise. (Lucy Brown Neuroscientist., www.alinenewton.com 2005) Touch can reduce stress, but how does the sensation of touch do that. According to research on touch there have been little scientific studies on how touch reduces stress in the biological body. One of the most common findings from research, including a study at the Institute of Neurological Sciences in Glasgow, is that touch lowers hear rate and blood pressure. But how? Work at Duke University in Durham, North Caroline, may provide an answer. It has shown that touch and massage can cut levels of stress hormones, which have been implicated in increasing the risk of a number of diseases. Touch many also increase levels of melatonin and of the feel-good hormone, serotonin. (HOW THE POWER OF TOUCH REDUCES PAIN AND EVEN FIGHTS DISEASE, Roger Dobson, The Independent, 10 October 2006) Even with all the findings of the research and studies we know that when we are touched or when we touch someone it is much more that science.
When we feel a hand on our back when we are tired it soothes. The same goes for when we want to extend comfort to someone else, we touch them. The bottom line is that touch feels good. Touch provides the nurturing that is vital for a healthy and balanced person.
SETTING HEALTHY BOUNDARIES OF TOUCH We know that touch feels good, but it is also important to establish healthy boundaries. As a nurse I think of the many times I thought of nothing to touch my patient. I didn’t give much thought to asking permission. By not asking permission I had not allowed healthy boundaries to be set. Boundaries are important to protect the one who touches and also the one being touched. Remember our skin is our barrier/receiver of our environment. It is also important to respect the person if they say no. No means No. Do not try to convince them. But, don’t give up either. Let them know that you will respect their wishes. It would be okay to ask at a later time. Explain where the touch would be and for what purpose. For example, you can offer to hold a hand, or to touch the shoulder. Explain the benefits of touch. Touching without permission can be considered an intrusion of privacy. Also, honor yourself as well. If you don’t want to be touched it is okay to say no. We live in a “low touch” society and it may take time to turn our social ideas and practices around. Start with yourself first to induce change.
I find that offering a hug is usually well accepted. Hugging your partner could lower his or her blood pressure and yours too. Researchers have found that in younger women, the more hugs they get, the lower their blood pressure. Researchers at the University f North Carolina who investigated 69 pre menopausal women showed that those who had the most hugs had a reduced heart rate. (HOW THE POWER OF TOUCH REDUCES PAIN AND EVEN FIGHTS DISEASE, Roger Dobson, The Independent, 10 October 2006)
But most of all hugs feel great!
TOUCH WITH INTENTION
INTENTION. 1. aim or objective: something that somebody plans to do 2. quality of purposefulness: the quality or state of having a purpose in mind Encarta ® World English Dictionary © & (P) 19982005 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved. I included the definition of intention so we could better understand of touching with a purpose. Touch with intention. What we are thinking or feeling can be interpreted by our touch. Our skin can feel what the intention is. Ever feel goose bumps on your arms and the back of neck? I am sure that we have all experience a touch of anger or fear as well as love. At DePauw University in Indiana, Dr Matthew Hertenstein has discovered that touch communicates emotion. When people were touched by a stranger they could not see, who had been instructed to try to communicate a particular emotion, they were able to tell the emotional state of the other person with great accuracy.
The findings show that people can communicate emotions through touch alone, including anger, fear, disgust, love, gratitude, and sympathy. Accuracy rates ranged from 48 per cent to 83 per cent, comparable with those found in studies of emotions shown in faces and voices. “The evidence indicates that humans can communicate several distinct emotions through touch” said Dr Hertenstein. “Our study is the first to provide rigorous evidence showing that humans can reliably signal love, gratitude and sympathy with touch. These findings raise the interesting possibility that touch may convey more positive emotions than the face.” What it suggests, too is that touch is a much more sophisticated tool that previously thought. It could also explain why different trials on the therapeutic effects of touch can get differing results. It may be that touch works, but that it needs the right person, in the right mood, doing the touching. . (HOW THE POWER OF TOUCH REDUCES PAIN AND EVEN FIGHTS DISEASE, Roger Dobson, The Independent, 10 October 2006) The findings of Dr. Hertenstein reveal that our intention of touch is as powerful as the touch itself. GIVING AND RECEIVING
How do we give and receive touch with intention? Let’s take a moment and go over the material. The skin is our largest organ. Within the layers of the skin there is a matrix of many different nerve endings that send the message of touch to the brain. These messages are very complicated. Such as: the type of touch either light or hard. The message tells the brain where the body is being touched. It even can tell the intention of the touch. Yet, studies show that the skin is also the most neglected organ when it comes to touch. Research has also proven that touch can give many benefits to increase the quality of life beyond the physical realm. The conclusion of the research drives home the fact that touch is needed in order to have a productive, balanced life. In order to be able to give and receive touch, we must first feel comfortable with ourselves. By practicing the exercise found in Chapter 3 on a daily basis will assist in giving to others. Asking a family member, friend or co-worker to do the exercise with you is a good idea also. The only way to experience the rewards of touch is to do it.
A simple way is to ask someone if you can touch their shoulders. the most comfortable way to do this, is to stand behind them. While standing behind them tell them you are going to touch their shoulders. When you get a response gently place your hands on their shoulders. The touch should be soft. Take a deep breath. Really be in the moment. Feel the sensation of the touch. Think a pleasant thought. Ask the person to close their eyes and take a deep breath. No words are necessary. Be quiet for a moment and allow the touch to communicate for you. It’s nice to take turns. Have your time of being touched on the shoulders. Take the time to breathe and enjoy the touch. Reflect in the emotion. Feel the physical sensation of receiving touch.
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