Missing Human Touch? These 5 Daily Rituals Will Give You A Fix
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Who have you touched lately? You can probably count them on one hand. Since Covid-19 hit and social distancing rules were put in place, touch has inevitably been in short supply for many of us. But the impact of this could be more significant than you think. “Touch is something that is so natural, a way to express ourselves and communicate,” says Joshi, holistic health practitioner and founder of the Joshi Clinic. “To not touch and maintain a distance from each other is very alien to us as human beings – we can’t embrace those we love since our hands have become a ‘transmitter’ for disease, which has meant we’ve become wary of people, more guarded of our personal space. Put simply, the transfer of energy from one human to another is lacking.”
One of the joys of touch comes from a hormone called oxytocin, which the body releases when it is touched – and it’s especially important for women. “We are all longing for a hug,” says skin specialist Jasmina Vico.“It’s no wonder that oxytocin’s nickname is the ‘cuddle’ or ‘bonding’ hormone. Self-soothing and self-care can raise oxytocin levels in our brain, as do acts of kindness.” Since it’s still likely to be some time before we can once again bear hug our friends with abandon, or even enjoy a beauty appointment, here are five fuss-free ways to incorporate touch into your day.
An easy first port of call is facial massage – and taking care of your skin in general. All you need do is spend a few extra minutes working a product into your skin. “Taking time for self-massage, especially with a cheering essential oil, like orange sweet, can improve your mood while fulfilling a craving for contact,” says Vico. “You’ll also notice skin becomes oxygenated and increased blood flow stimulates the facial muscles, defining the cheekbones and jawline, resulting in a youthful and more relaxed appearance. An uplifted expression is an uplifted mood!” Vico recommends applying an emollient cream or oil (try Aesop’s Fabulous Face Oil or Paula’s Choice Resist Barrier Repair Cream), and moving the fingers in circular motions around pressure points (eyes, chin, cheeks and the sides of the nose), starting in the centre of the face and moving outwards, and then draining towards the lymph nodes at the base of the ears.
“The skin is extremely rich in nerve endings and for that reason, touch has the power to offer many physiological effects,” says Renata Nunes, an acupuncturist, physiotherapist and masseuse. She recommends acupressure, whereby the body is stimulated using pressure from your fingers, rather than the needles we associate with acupuncture. Using a firm (but not uncomfortable) touch, Nunes advises applying pressure for one to two minutes, occasionally massaging in circular motions. “Key acupressure points include ‘yin tang’, the area between the eyebrows, which is good for aiding insomnia, relieving headaches and calming the mind,” says Nunes. “‘Large intestine 4’ is another, located in the web of the hand between the thumb and index finger – it will help with headaches, congestion and constipation as well as swollen eyes.” Dispel negative thoughts with “GV 20”, at the top of the head, in the middle of the line that connects the apex of the two ears. “Incorporating acupressure into your routine can help maintain balance and harmony in the body,” Nunes adds.
It’s the wellness ritual you always hope to make a habit of and never do, but skin brushing, followed by a liberal application of all-over body moisturiser, comes with more benefits than simply exfoliation. “It’s a wonderful way to cleanse and let the lymphatic system drain,” explains Joshi. “Done each day with a soft brush, working towards the heart, it will detox and clean the lymph and blood, which in turn will improve your health, boost vitality and also enhance and support your immune system.” A long-handled brush, like Goop’s G.Tox Ultimate Dry Brush, will help you get to all the right places (you should always sweep towards the heart, from the bottom of the body to the top); meanwhile, look to a sumptuous, buttery moisturiser or nourishing oil like Costa Brazil’s Para O Corpo oil and body cream to massage into your skin afterwards.
Many experts tout the benefits of yoga for getting in touch (quite literally) with the body, as well as enhancing the mind-body connection. Yoga teacher Rosie Underwood agrees: “Self-massage is the most important form of communication to your body. Unlike getting a massage from a paid professional, when you do yoga you’re giving your body the message it craves more than anything: that you care for it.” Her yoga classes, which she’s currently running with the help of everybody’s new best friend, Zoom, aim to relieve many of the tensions we subconsciously carry in our bodies by targeting trigger points. “I always start with the face in child’s pose – sinking the sit bones back towards the heels with knees out wide, forehead to the mat – there’s a deep interconnected link between the pelvis, hips and jaw, so when the hips are tight from sitting down, you might experience a ringing in your ears, more jaw clenching or teeth grinding. Opening the hips helps release this tension.” Simple movements like consciously relaxing your jaw and tongue away from the roof of the mouth can help release the (screen-induced) tension from the muscles around the eyes.
Everyone knows there are few things better than a great scalp massage – and while the ones we used to enjoy at the hair salon sink now feel like a distant memory, they are actually easy to do at home. Also said to help stimulate hair growth (although the jury is out on that particular side-effect), scalp massage has long been an Ayurvedic ritual, which is why brands like Fable & Mane and Mauli Rituals both offer hair oils to strengthen hair follicles and generally impart shine to the hair. Simply infuse into the scalp with the help of your fingertips, making small circular motions over the entire head – wherever feels good – and enjoy the calming effect it has on your mind and body.