Is there a biological and scientific premise to the importance of touch in our lives and communities? Yes.
Those human communities that still live as tribe might have a giggle at our need to have explained and justified what is such an obvious joy and pleasure. But nevertheless, the biology of touch is a complex and beautiful one and if it can illuminate how touch is such a critical factor in how we bond and relate to one another – so be it.
Oxytocin seems so sterile and sharp a name to describe the particular hormone who’s task it is to lay the foundation for human bonds and connection. It is a hormone set to work and signaled via touch – a complex and miniature stimuli that encourages an opening of one being to another, so that deep bonds and connection can be forged.
It is the hormone prevalent at the time of birth – when in that intense period of eye gazing and closeness between Mother and child just moments after delivery, Oxytocin saturates both parties to create a sense of soothing, deep connection that will be the premise of their relationship for the rest of their lives. This is why it is vital that touch and eye gazing between Mother and child in those early moments should go undisturbed.
But beyond that very early facility – Oxytocin goes on to help us feel connected to one another every day. Appropriate touch received gladly and without fear initiates a release of Oxytocin that encourages a sense of calm and connection that is pivotal to optimal functioning of the body. It creates a safe breathing space for our being – a place where we feel accepted, seen and loved enough that our bodies heal in the supportive environment they deserve. Beyond touch, just creating a loving, supportive environment for one another can be enough to promote the release of Oxytocin.
The more we learn about Oxytocin, we see that it impacts positively on well being in so many ways – from pain relief, to lowering blood pressure, aiding digestion, balancing body temperature, speeding up the healing of wounds and positively effecting the amount of cortisol (an inflammatory hormone) in the body.
But let’s not get distracted – as fascinating as Oxytocin is, it is just the messenger. The real healer is touch. Share it widely.