You may or may not realize this, but the feelings you have about your body, your “body image,” are closely related to your feelings of self-worth. If we believe we are worthy human beings, regardless of what the scale says, we are likely to have a positive body image—and vice versa. However, humans are also very social animals. Our interactions with others can have a massive impact on how we feel about ourselves. Specifically, for this blog, we will explore the importance of loving touch on a person’s positive body image.
The power of loving touch
How much we lovingly touch and are touched by others plays an important role in physical and mental health. A 2013 study published in Frontiers in Psychology found that “dynamic, slow-velocity affective touch can have a fundamental role in the malleability of our sense of body ownership and highlights the central role of interoception and embodied affectivity in self-consciousness.” Whoa! Those are some big words! In plain language, this means that slow soothing strokes – the kind young children receive from their loving mothers and romantic partners share with each other can help us relate more positively with our own bodies and give us a sense body ownership.
Self-love comes from within
Positive and loving touch promotes self love, but ultimately self love comes from within. I will say, developing self-worth and self-love if we are not used to receiving an adequate amount of love and affection from our partners, close family members, our children and/or friends can be a bit of a challenge. The role of receiving a loving touch plays a crucial role in how we in turn love ourselves and our bodies. The more we experience a loving and affectionate touch the more comforted we are in knowing we are truly loved and valued. Studies show there is a direct correlation between the dynamics.
Intimacy and touch
It’s no surprise that touch is an expression of intimacy whether it’s with ourselves or with others. When we have a negative or poor body image, we are less likely to welcome the loving touch of others and may even feel uncomfortable receiving a simple hug from a friend. The feelings of wanting to avoid touch may also come from a place of not feeling heard or seen by others. A loving touch can help heal emotional wounds. When we feel that someone we love sees us and accepts us fully for who we are, our body image and sense of self-worth dramatically improves!
Babies need love too!
“It definitely helps,” says Elizabeth Mittiga, a Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta NICU Nurse. “Just feeling that comfort, that warmth. It definitely helps them to grow faster and put more weight on.”
Infants at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta receiving ‘cuddles’ from the ICU Grandpa are not the only ones benefiting from a loving touch. Studies show that infants who receive skin-to-skin contact during crucial development years show increased brain development, emotional maturity and reach the stages of recognition of self much sooner. On the flip side, infants who do not receive skin-to-skin contact in these years have been documented as showing high levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, which causes infants to cry, become emotionally distressed, and have trouble sleeping and resting.
Touch gets you into your body
The impact of touch goes much deeper than just our skin! Touch brings your attention to the fact that you have a body. This is what “embodiment” means. Just like yoga or exercising, loving touch can bring our awareness to our bodies in a positive way. When we have negative feelings towards or body, it can cause a discontent between our mind and our body when we need to be paying attention to our bodies cues the most. Affection and touch from others or ourselves can help us reconnect with the awareness of embodiment and what that means to us.
Everyone deserves touch
You deserve loving touch! He deserves loving touch — we all deserve loving touch! We often times have these negative inner monologues playing in our heads that make us feel as if we are not deserving — but it’s not true. Everyone is worthy of loving touch. Touch is not a privilege reserved for “beautiful” or “skinny” people. There is nothing anybody needs to change about themselves in order to earn the right to be touched.
Check my other blogs about body image.