The Healing Power of Touch and Benefits of Nature Therapy
It is no secret that a pat on the back, a peck on the cheek or an embrace can make us feel good. Experts now claim that a touch can do more than comfort: it can heal.
Our skin is the largest organ of our body and it is very responsive and sensitive. Even a gentle touch releases the hormone “oxytocin,” which helps relieve stress, lessen anxiety and create a sense of happiness.
There are many benefits of physical touch. Studies show the giving or receiving of affection in ways such as hugging, cuddling and holding hands can help people feel better, relive physical pain and instill a sense of calm. The feel-good hormone released during physical touch has been proven, over time, to lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart disease. By having daily physical contact with someone, one can increase relaxation and even improve sleep. Interestingly, individuals who are touch deprived are usually less satisfied in their lives and relationships and may suffer from reduced self-esteem. Touch deprivation can leave a person feeling disconnected and lonely from both people and society in general. By engaging in regular physical contact with others, one can significantly increase their overall sense of well-being.
While physical touch can help a person feel more connected to the world around them, nature therapy can promote a similar sense of peace and grounding.
People who have been suffering from stress, sickness and/or trauma may find spending contemplative time in nature promotes healing. While forests, mountains or even gardens are wonderful options, don’t let yourself be limited by these places. The benefits of nature can also be found in your community’s parks and other green spaces.
Being in nature, or even viewing scenes of nature, has been shown to reduce anger, fear and stress. Exposure to nature not only makes you feel better emotionally, it contributes to your physical well-being, reduces blood pressure and heart rate, relieves muscle tension and promotes the production of stress reducing hormones.
Our every day environment can increase stress, which in turn impacts the body. What you are seeing, hearing and experiencing at any moment can change not only your mood but how your nervous, endocrine and immune systems work.
In Japan, forest therapy, or shinrin-yoku, is standard preventative medicine. Also known as forest bathing, it focuses on allowing the body and psyche to hang out in the piece of the woods. Spending time outdoors, especially in the mountainous, forested areas near a source of water, can greatly improve one’s mental, emotional and spiritual health.
Some of the benefits of immersing oneself in nature include boosted immune system functioning with an increase in the count of the body’s Natural Killer (NK) cells, improved mood, increased ability to focus, increased energy level and improved sleep. If you make being in nature part of a regular self-care practice, you can expect to experience a deeper and clearer intuition, increased capacity to communicate with the land and its species, increased flow of your eros/life force and an overall increase in happiness.
As you can see, the healing benefits of physical touch mirror many of the health benefits of nature therapy. At In Your Arms, we have started blending them into one powerful therapy. I’ve been hard at work tailoring a session plan to incorporate nature therapy with a cuddle session and I’m eager to test the seemingly bountiful benefits of doing so.