The power of touch

Sarah and Gus black & white

This is one of my all time favourite pictures.  It shows the strength of the bond that Gus and Sarah share, and it projects beautifully the warmth and easy comfort between them.

There’s a joke in our family that our household productivity plummeted when Gus came into our lives.  None of us can walk by him without stopping for a snuggle, a belly rub or even a simple pat.  I’ll often walk into a room to find one of the kids wrapped around him, asleep on the floor.  There’s no question that he is our living stuffed animal.  He’s like a blankie for all of us.  I’ll often sit with Gus in my lap, and just run my hands through his coat as a way to calm myself down. During these past weeks of great stress I have often buried my hands and face in his fur and had a good cry – it really helped.

There is a huge body of research on the power of touch.  In terms of known benefits, it reduces stress, boosts the immune system, decreases pain, calms the mind and lifts the mood.  I teach at a massage therapy college, so I guess I should know!

Yesterday I returned to work at the college after almost two weeks absence.  I was bombarded all day by my wonderful students wishing me well and expressing their concern for me after what I’ve been through.  As you’d expect from a bunch of future registered massage therapists, they are a very physical bunch.  I  received so many warm hugs and gentle touches – I was blown away by the energy of it all, and it made me feel so good.

As a society, we tend to keep pretty much to ourselves, and we are inclined to save touch for our pets, our partners, or specific people in certain situations.  After reflecting on what I’ve experienced and what I’ve just written, I’m making a personal commitment to relax a little and to hug a lot more.