Touch - the Neglected Sensory Element

Jul 05, 2017

Touch - the Neglected Sensory Element

Sometimes I struggle with the feeling that I live in a world that doesn’t really make sense to me anymore.  A case in point – Sunday of the Canada Day weekend I went with my daughter to the Canada 150 Local Makers Market – a craft fair by any other name.  It was a feast for the senses – aromatherapy products, soaps, handmade preserves of the sweet and savoury kinds, beautifully crafted jewellery and clothes, and art – a feast for the senses – shapes and colors, tastes and textures and scent. 

Weighted Sensory Blankets

One product captured my attention – Lilia’s Attic, a local craft maker, creates what she calls Weighted Sensory Blankets! I’d never heard of such a thing and didn’t know why one might need such an object. After an informative conversation with the maker I found out that these blankets are called in more common parlance, “hugs in a blanket”. According to research, the weighted products provide deep pressure touch which produces serotonin and dopamine, neuro transmitters that positively influence mood as well as appetite, sleep, memory and learning – like a boast for the limbic brain (our emotional feel good centre).

I asked “Who buys these”? She said they prove to be helpful for kids with ADD, ADHD, and Autism spectrum disorders; those suffering from insomnia, restless leg syndrome, PTSD and menopausal insomnia. Apparently, this deep pressure touch stimulates serotonin that with enough of a boost, ups our natural melatonin production, the hormone that helps us achieve a deeper, peaceful, and restful sleep. They are also found useful for those suffering from dementia – and are apparently very popular in senior’s residences where there can be a real dearth of touch – the deep pressure kind or another kind. For more information on the blankets visit: https://www.facebook.com/liliasattic/

Snuggle playshops

The same day on Heyevents I noticed another “surrogate” touch option. I wasn’t aware that my colleague from Somatic Experiencing training, Tracy Montgomery, who is a somatic sex educator, was offering what she calls a “snuggle playshop”. In her description, “At a snuggle playshop, you can learn to ask for what you want, practice saying ‘Yes’ and ‘No’, challenge yourself, have fun, develop greater trust in yourself and others. You never have to do anything you don’t want to. You can meet new people, spoon, cuddle, get or give a foot rub or a scalp scratch, have a snack, share a fun conversation, engage in some warm non-sexual snuggling, or simply hang out in your jammies and chill.”
Check it out at https://www.tracymontgomery.ca/tracymontgomeryracymontgomery

Why we need touch

Both these offerings reminded me of the sad reality that we live in a touch-deprived society and now we’re moving on to “invent” ways to take care of our needs for touch. The need is real, as research increasing shows the mental and physical benefits of touch, and what happens when we are deprived of it. Check out the research below:
http://www.newyorker.com/science/maria-konnikova/power-touch
https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/wired-success/201503/8-reasons-why-we-need-human-touch-more-ever
http://www.getrelationshipsright.com/need_touch/

But what ever happened to good old fashion regular touch. Have we gotten so out of touch (sorry the pun) with the importance of touch, that we’re inventing ways to get touch that are so contrived? I know all the arguments as to why we’ve arrived at this sad juncture, but…

Our senses are a source of great pleasure and a case could be made for touch as the most significant one. So in the spirit of pleasure I invite you to pay attention to your need for touch. What happens when you give or receive touch? Possibly you may even feel like taking some risks to reach out to others to initiate getting your needs meet. Let me know what happens.

 

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