My Favorite Bit of Information From The Week:
The vagus nerve – as well as my history with “not always wanting to be touched” – led me down an interesting road this past week. The vagus nerve (the longest nerve in the body, with the primary function of slowing down and soothing the nervous system), which I wrote about last week, is stimulated when our body’s pressure sensors are activated. This happens, for example, when we perform actions such as consensually cuddling or hugging someone. When the nervous system is calmed like this, it reduces the negative side affects of stress in the body (inflammation, high blood pressure, increased risk of depression and anxiety, and more), as well as causing the body to release Oxytocin (also known as the “cuddle” or “love” hormone in the body). Simply put, touch activates the Vagus nerve, which releases Oxytocin, which helps your ability to get a good night’s rest, increase your immune system’s strength, and lower your stress hormones.
Touch has been listed among our six basic human needs, and interestingly, consensual touch as an adult leads to lower levels of depression and anxiety and healthier physical bodies. But what about children? Children who do not receive appropriate levels of positive touch before the age of two have been reported to develop cognitive disabilities, gastro-intestinal issues, immune system problems, compulsory rocking tendencies (an attempt to self-sooth), and more. You can learn more about these developmental concerns from David Linden (a professor of neuroscience at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine). He has a fascinating Ted Talk – I don’t love his sense of humor – and you can go right to the developmental information here.
Consent for Touch Is Important: As I have mentioned before, Dr. Bessel Van Der Kolk’s book “The Body Keeps The Score” has been life changing for me. We now know that the body stores traumatic memories within itself and sends different feedback loops to our brain with regards to touch. Even something like a natural disaster that takes place near us can be traumatic for us and alter our sense of safety. Our body remembers it, and because of this, we may even begin to distance ourselves from those we love as a safety mechanism. Sexual assault (previous post here), car accidents, loss of a loved one, loss of a job, et cetera all affect the body and the mind as traumas, and this alters how we are able to connect with touch. Trauma changes our body’s reaction – all at different levels – and so not everyone is ready or in need of touch, which is why it’s so important to always ask for consent. In a world where trauma is common, it is important to have rules for touch. Always ask. The worst case scenario is someone says “no”. I find this article for consent from Planned Parenthood to be very helpful. It was originally created for sexual consent, but the rules apply to handshakes, hugs, and all manner of touch as well.
Touch Benefits (They Don’t Strictly Need To Be Person To Person)This Article from Shape was actually one of my favorite reads on the benefits of touch, and positive ways you can add more touch into your life. I have listed a few below, as well as a few of my own:
- Yoga, weight lifting, swimming and other physical activities that cause the pressure receptors to respond.
- Cuddling with animals.
- A hug.
- Holding hands.
- Cuddling (personally or professionally*).
*Professional Cuddling: This experience has been life altering for several friends of mine. They LOVE cuddle therapy. In all honesty, I have reservations about this form of therapy, since I don’t particularly enjoy strangers touching me. But, if it sounds interesting to you, check out this video from Newsweek to learn more.
Update On My Show:
The One Woman Hamlet Fundraiser Happened This Past Week!
Thank you from the bottom of my heart to all of the amazing humans who supported the project online, with their time, and in person. Truly, to all of you, words are not enough. And thank you to the incredible local businesses who supported, there will be an updated list of all who helped out later this week. They are truly Chicago staples and if you have a second to check them out, they are well worth the effort.
Weren’t able to make it out? There will be an E-mail next week with access to the photos from the event and ways to help support the project, both financially and with your beautiful presence!
Ways to Support: If you would like to donate to my show, share this project with a friend, or find out more about it please check out my gofundme here: https://www.gofundme.com/one-woman-hamlet
Thank You: Thank you VERY much to all who have donated thus far, making this project possible.