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The relevance of physical stimulation

How touch and hugs act on your brain

There are many aspects of our environment, our behaviour, and our habits that we know how they contribute to our mental health and our overall well-being. But physical stimulation is not one of these aspects that is given the importance it needs.

We know that a healthy diet, exercise, active sexual life, and a calm environment have a positive impact. Not only for our physical wellbeing but also for our mental health. What about hugs, touches, massages? These aspects of human life are last on our list of priorities.

Examples and practices that showcase the relevance of physical stimulation

1. Skin to skin

One of the first recommended practices as soon as we are born is placing the baby skin to skin. It helps create an emotional bond and a sense of security in the newborn. Al well as being a fundamental part of their cognitive, emotional, and social development. What’s more, premature babies have scheduled visits with mom or dad for cuddling, rocking and skin-to-skin contact.

We know how important this first contact is today thanks to studies carried out on babies and children. Studies that looked at different conditions of deprivation of physical contact. Such as dysfunctional and neglectful families, or in the case of children in orphanages. (“Synchronous caregiving from birth to adulthood tunes humans’social brain” Adi Ulmer Yaniva, Roy Salomonb, Shani Waidergorena, Ortal Shimon-Raza, Amir Djalovskia and Ruth Feldman)

2. Oxytocin and cortisol

These two hormones are closely related, the first also called “love hormone” and the second “stress hormone”. It’s widely proven that hugs and skin-to-skin contact, increases oxytocin production and reduces cortisol levels. It sounds very simplistic, but they are highly complex circuits. Combines the somatosensory system, the endocrine system that secretes these hormones, and the neural activity of the nervous system.

3. Merkel cells

Located in the epidermis are innervated by different nerve fibers and are stimulated by delicate touch. They are responsible for fine motor skills, the detection of edges and textures. And in some cases pain, being cells of great complexity. They transform tactile stimuli to generate neuronal synapses and release serotonin. Likewise, they communicate very important information to the brain. Thanks to touch and help us in our daily lives with tasks as basic as tying our shoelaces.

4.Digital relationships

It is true that in this digital and technological era, people all over the world can create a friendship. And even an intimate and somehow sexual relationship. But we cannot deny the lack of physical contact in this type of relationship. Our body is highly prepared to detect many aspects of great relevance within a relationship. The way the other person speaks and moves, their smell, the contact with their skin. Even the texture of their hair help us create that bond or to quickly detect those “red flags”.

What we recommend:

  • Massage your facial and body with soft movements. The nervous system perceives it as soft touches and strokes. You can use a soft skincare product like a Cleansing Balm to help you hands glide onto your skin.
  • Bathing in warm water also imitates that feeling of hugging and embraces.
  • Giving and receiving those long hugs with loved ones give us those feelings of connection and security.
  • Holding hands or touching people’s shoulders or arms when we communicate with them. Is a practice that makes them feel connected to us. Furthermore, making our relationships more intimate and with better quality.
  • Dancing whenever you can alone or in company also helps increase oxytocin.