5 Soothing Practices To Help You Cope With Touch Deprivation

  Missing Physical Touch? Try These Techniques

As humans, we crave connection and interaction. And after the last 18 months of physical and social distancing, many of us are likely experiencing a level of touch deprivation, also known as skin hunger—I know I am.

“Humans are born with an innate need for physical touch.”

Humans are born with an innate need for physical touch; the minute we come out of the womb, we move to our mother’s breast. Science shows skin-to-skin contact is one of the most essential and initial experiences we have after taking our first breath.

“While growing up, touch is how we connect to our parents, soothe ourselves, and show affection to others,” explains Dr. Brian Wind, Ph.D., a recognized leader in clinical psychology. 

When we are touched, we release oxytocin, a hormone responsible for regulating positive moods and making us feel happy. It's considered one of the most important neurotransmitter systems in the brain, as it regulates psychiatric responses to hormonal changes, such as postpartum depression. According to Dr. Wind, “[Physical touch] makes us feel good and makes us close to the people we love. It signals safety, trust, and a sense of belonging.”

“There are ways we can cope with touch deprivation, even if the touch isn’t coming from another person.”

Many of us are missing physical touch right now, and considering the science, it's necessary to address the touch deprivation resulting from isolation. Depression, for example, can increase stress levels, which can affect the immune system, and experiencing touch starvation can lead to trouble sleeping, added stress, or heightened anxiety.

The good news is, there are ways we can cope with touch deprivation, even if the touch isn't coming from another person. While not a permanent solution, these practices can comfort and soothe our bodies.

1. Listen To ASMR

Some people experience Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR) when listening to certain sounds, such as whispering or brushing hair. These unique sounds stimulate the part of the brain associated with touch and connection. People who experience ASMR report feeling calm in both the mind and body. ASMR is also a resourceful tool to help manage stress and for those who struggle with sleep. Find thousands of ASMR videos on YouTube.

2. Give Yourself A Massage

When feeling lonely or craving touch, giving yourself a massage can be a helpful practice. For self-massage, try brushing your entire body in the bath, rubbing oil on your body after bathing, or wrapping your arms around yourself for a hug. You can also try scalp and hair stimulation to release tension, promote circulation, and experience a different texture.

3. Sleep With A Body Pillow

A body pillow mimics what it feels like to hug or cuddle with another person. Sleeping with one often reduces stress and aids the body in releasing oxytocin. Plus, it creates a more comfortable sleep by supporting the back and shoulders. We love this organic latex one.

4. Dance To Release “Happy Chemicals”

Dancing releases a lovely combination of chemicals in the brain that promotes happiness. Studies have found that both oxytocin and dopamine, along with a few other “happy chemicals,” are released when dancing. Turn your favorite song up and dance around the house—you’ll soon feel reconnected with the physical senses of your body.

5. Apply Body Pressure

Deep pressure stimulation relaxes the nervous system, and weighted blankets can help calm anxiety. Use one to help deepen sleep and give your body a sense of safety (you can find our favorite sustainably made blankets here). If you don’t have a weighted blanket, you can also try compression clothing or even apply a heavy bag of flour or rice to your chest.

When you feel touch deprived, consider incorporating these practices into your daily rituals as sources of nourishment and happiness. Remember that relief may not be immediate, and it may be worth trying more than one practice to find what works best for you.

How are you meeting your needs for physical touch during this period? Tell us the comments below!

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Courtney Jay is a writer at The Good Trade. She is also a yoga instructor, health enthusiast, and sustainable fashion advocate. She believes the most powerful way to nurture the planet is to nurture ourselves. You can find more of her writing and take one of her online yoga classes on her website Coincide.