BY Jen Tobin
Can you recall the last time you were touched, non-sexually, for an hour straight? For many of us, we may need to go back to our infancy to find the answer. Touch is a vital part of the human experience and our technology, more and more, threatens its existence.
There have been countless studies done on infants that prove newborns who aren’t touched experience failure to thrive. Those who are massaged, cuddled and held closely for long periods gain more weight, make more eye contact and are emotionally more connected than those who don’t receive as much touch. This seems obvious to many people, but most of us think this need extinguishes as we grow older. It doesn’t.
There was a time when humans lived collectively and touched one another on a daily basis. Extended families lived in huts and caves and neighbors and friends were in close proximity. Today, we live separately, as if being independent is a badge of honor; as if being isolated is somehow superior to connection.
We spend our time “liking” each other on Facebook, and coffee dates have taken a back seat to planning our days. Everyone is busy and everyone, though more connected than ever before in our history, is more alone and isolated than ever. This is where massage comes in.
I’ve been in the business of touching people therapeutically for 11 years, and I’ve been teaching this art to others for the last two. I see the kinds of people who become massage therapists as people who inherently crave connection; who “feel” things sometimes a little more than others and believe in things bigger and outside of themselves. They spend a year with me touching strangers, each other and their families everyday and I hear at the end of the year how magical their time was with me. I hear about how much healthier they feel, how much more connected they feel to themselves and how much more in tune they are with others. They generally are happier and feel more alive. Their lives seem to hold larger meanings because they touch people. I believe it’s what we’re missing right now.
I don’t hate technology; quite the contrary: I love that we can all carry mini computers in our purses and connect with our loved ones at a moment’s notice. I love that we can see and speak with our distant family members via video chat on the weekends and I love that I can read about things happening across the globe at any time. But, what really fuels me is snuggling in the morning with my child, lying on my husband on the couch, hugging that friend I haven’t seen in too long… the genuine ancient connection of touch.
With more everyday violence in our world than we’ve had in decades and more media images of hate and violence than I care to think about, massage therapists are needed like never before. An hour of straight healthy touch with no strings attached, no sexuality, not even the expectation of reciprocity…this is healing facilitation at its best. I don’t consider myself a healer, just someone who connects to your body and is a catalyst to your body healing itself. I am helping make a connection between your brain (relax!) and your body (relax!). When the two are in sync, a melting and a softening occur. This is phenomenal not only for you, but also the people in your life. Imagine if you had a massage everyday for a week… how much more connected you’d feel to your own body, how much stress would be released on a cellular level…how much more likely you’d be to touch those around you, hence paying it forward.
The benefits of massage extend far beyond stress relief and the release of muscular tension. Other lesser known benefits include an increase in immune function, assisting in proper lymph drainage and lymph system function, and relief from depression and anxiety. When employers bring in seated massage therapists to the office, employees are generally happier, feel more fulfilled in their work and call out sick less. All of this is documented and when we stop to look at the evidence I think it just makes a whole lot of sense, even to the non-massage professional.
Our skin is the largest organ in the body and is the first thing to come into contact with the world. It is designed to protect us from the elements and to respond positively to contact with others. We forget about it and aside from the skin on our face, it mostly gets neglected. It is loaded with sensory nerves for a reason and when these nerves are stimulated, it triggers all of those happy hormones to fire off and flood our system. You don’t need to have a life partner in order to experience the healing power of touch- just a great massage therapist.
I understand that the cost of massage can be prohibitive for some. I also know that 30 minutes is better than no minutes and that even a short reflexology treatment can make you feel light and like you’ve slept for hours. I encourage everyone to experience massage therapy if you haven’t and if you can’t get an hour, get half. Carve out that time to take care of yourself so that you can show up as the best version of yourself to those you love. In our ever-expanding society of cars and Internet and isolation, touch is so greatly needed. Our need for it does not diminish as we get older, we just get better at ignoring the need- to everyone’s detriment.
You can click here to find a professional, qualified massage therapist near you.