Touch is powerful. Touch can affect our health. We often communicate more than we are aware of through touching another person. We often touch the people we love. Here are three easy ways to explore touching someone. In the days of COVID, this is most likely going to be someone we live with and know well, perhaps even love. Touch is, of course, an important part of a sexual relationship, but safe, consensual touching outside of sex can promote bonding, relaxation, the immune response, trust, compassion, and the overall health of both parties.
Dacher Keltner, PhD, Director of the Greater Good Science Center of UC Berkeley, in the article “Hands On Research: The Science of Touch,” says, “There are studies showing that touch signals safety and trust, it soothes. Basic warm touch calms cardiovascular stress. It activates the body’s vagus nerve, which is intimately involved with our compassionate response.
Tiffany Field, PhD, director of the Touch Research Institute at the Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine at the University of Miami, told Healthline Magazine, “There’s also an increase in oxytocin, which is the love hormone that contributes to relaxation in couples.”
According to Psychology Today, “Touch alters favorably the subtle human biofields that are the foundation of the healthy functioning of the human organism.”
Relaxation, trust, and healthy functioning could benefit any relationship. In this time of social distancing, many of us may be craving the benefits of touch. Perhaps even the people closest to us could benefit from more touch. We may be the ones who can give these benefits safely.
The first thing to consider in exploring touching someone, anyone really, is consent. If the person is a stranger, an acquaintance, a friend, or even a lover, you need their consent to touch them. Between lovers, much of this may be implied but asking and explaining how you would like to touch them, can increase the benefits, and prevent things like misunderstandings and the tickle response, making the whole experience even more enjoyable for both of you.
In talking with your touch partner, you may find out as much about them and how they feel, as you would through their body’s responses to your touch. In this discussion, sit with, and look at your partner. (In this instance I’ll use the term “partner” for anyone you explore this touching with.)
Behold them not just as a person, but as an organism: flesh, bone, brain, and nerves. Tell them you’d like to touch them in a kind, compassionate, and safe way: perhaps their hands, their feet, and their shoulders. Allow them to say no to the whole thing, or just to touching certain parts of their body. Tell them, if they allow you to proceed, that they can dictate where, for how long, and how deeply you are touching them.
Take your partner’s hand in yours. Hold it and do nothing. Watch their responses, their breathing, and their facial expressions. Feel the weight of their hand. Begin to lightly stroke the surfaces of the hand, fingers, and wrist. Explore it as if you’ve never seen a hand before. Begin to lightly press into soft, fleshy parts. Press a fingertip into the spaces between the bones.
If your partner agrees, use a small amount of oil. Check that they aren’t allergic to it first. “Milk” the fingers as you would a cow (some of us may have actually done this). You may wish to leave the oil on after you finish but have a towel ready should they wish to wipe their hand.
Ask your partner to remove a shoe and a sock or maybe remove these for them if they agree. Do the same with this foot as you did with the hand above, and then hold the foot between your palms and gently twist the way you would a pepper grinder. Rub the sides of the foot fast to create some heat. Lightly pop the toes the way you would pop a grape.
Tell your partner you will be behind them, and that they won’t be able to see you. Gently rest your hands on their shoulders, the top part that runs between the neck and where the arm attaches. Explore lightly pressing weight and rocking your hands side to side. Use your knuckles. Make sure the depth of pressure is good for your partner. Lighten up if it’s not. Lightly rock your forearms on their shoulders in the same way. Stroke their shoulders with your hands, then your fingertips, and then the tips of your nails.
After you’ve finished exploring touch, sit again with your partner. Allow them to talk. Or maybe just sit with each other silently.