Healthy touch is important for anyone at any age. But after a divorce or death healthy touch is crucial to mental, emotional and physical health. This article shares some healthy touch ideas for adults going through a divorce or death and why touch is crucial!
I'm excited to share some posts that hit home this year. (It's one of my New Year's Resolutions). Mental health is something I deal with everyday. Not just personally, but professionally as well. It's my full time job and I love it. I love the brain and all the amazing ways it is able to heal, repair and adapt. I am amazed at how the mind and body are intertwined. It's part of the reason I started this website so many years ago and why I continue it today.
Each Monday we will be doing a mental health check in. And today we are starting with the importance of touch after death or divorce.
Over the past year I've heard many stories of clients and students losing loved ones. I've heard of many couples who have divorced. And I've heard of many people who live alone.
One book I've had the opportunity of reading this year is "From Me to We: Embracing Life Again After the Death or Divorce of a Spouse." One thing that is talked about during the book is the importance of touch and how our skin actually goes through a period of "skin hunger." I'm not just talking about sexual intimacy but mainly physical. During the course of a day before the death or divorce of a spouse we kissed our spouse goodbye or hello, we gave each other a hug, we curled up together at night or sat by each other on the couch. We held hands when we went out to eat or walked the dogs, we even talked and laughed together and bumped elbows. All those physical touches add up during the course of the day and serve to keep our bodies and minds healthy.
"Touch not only serves as a form of communication for intimacy, emotions and perception but also serves as a form of modality." (Hertenstein, 2011).
When I worked as a nursing assistant back in high school we were taught how important touch is for a nursing home resident or hospital patient. We were often instructed that simple things like brushing a patient's hair, placing a hand on their shoulder when trying to get their attention, or helping a patient put lotion or nail polish on are important daily things a person needs to help support their health.
Touch is hugely important and if you live alone, it's also something that becomes something you lack day to day with your interactions with others. Unfortunately, touch in some parts of the world is also immediately sexualized. Or it's thought of in a negative connotation. Depending on the events surrounding your personal divorce or death you may have different feelings or emotions on touch. Maybe you see it positively while others might view it more negatively. But healthy touch is something that everyone can benefit from. Here are some simple ways to bring touch into your daily life. I've made sure to be considerate of others feelings and emotions on touch as well.
SIMPLE DAILY TOUCHES
Simple daily touches are a huge part of your day that you probably don't even think about. The playful swat on the bum as you passed by your spouse in the hall, or the hand on your back as your spouse or a colleague introduced you to someone. All of those daily touches actually add up and help the endorphins in our brain. It also helps slow our pulse and lower our blood pressure amongst other health benefits. (Zur, 2020). Some research has suggested that we need about eight meaningful touches a day to support emotional and physical health. Some simple daily things we can do are:
- Putting on lotion
- Taking a shower or bath
- Yard work, baking or cooking
- Meditation including self love or self hug meditation if comfortable.
- Putting on makeup
- Curling up or sleeping with a weighted blanket or body pillow
WEEKLY PHYSICAL TOUCH
Doing something different or outside of your comfort zone is important to finding your own identity and purpose after a divorce or death. It can also be important for healing. It can be so difficult to push yourself outside of your comfort zone at first but it's so important too. Think of what's important to you, and then set some goals. Maybe it's important to you at first to make sure you stay connected to friends and family with weekly lunches, but over time you may want to incorporate doing things for yourself that might be of interest like attending a group or learning a new skill. Here are some ideas:
- Going out to lunch or meeting up with a friend or family member
- Taking a photography class, dance class, partner yoga class, attending a book club, widows or divorce group or bible study group. You can even volunteer for a local organization or at a local nursing home. Groups can be found on Meetup, internet or Facebook group searches or you can take classes at community centers or local colleges that offer community courses.
MONTHLY OR SEMI REGULAR TOUCH
Getting comfortable with someone different touching you is important. This was one that my personal counselor suggested I do monthly. Whether or not I ever got back into another relationship it was encouraged that I learn to be comfortable with healthy touch and with someone else touching me again. Some of these ideas might seem a little more costly, but you can find discount deals through Groupon, beauty schools, or internet searches for coupons. Your FSA or HSA may even cover some of these suggestions too!
- Manicure or pedicure
- Getting a haircut
- Stretching session
Do you have any suggestions that have worked for you or someone you love? Let's share them! Leave a comment or send me a message!
Hertenstein, M. J. (2011). The communicative functions of touch in adulthood. In M. J. Hertenstein & S. J. Weiss (Eds.), The handbook of touch: Neuroscience, behavioral, and health perspectives (p. 299–327). Springer Publishing Co.
Zur. (2020, February 13). To Touch Or Not To Touch: Exploring Prohibition On Touch In Psychotherapy And Counseling and the Ethical Considerations of Touch, by Ofer Zur, Ph.D. Retrieved from https://drzur.com/touch-in-therapy/
**NOTE: This article is not to be substituted for professional advice and seeking advice of a professional or medical professional is not to be disregarded if needed. This site is not liable for any personal loss or damage provided by information on this site. It is your personal responsibility to evaluate the accuracy, claims, and opinion provided on this site.
Traci is a certified counselor with a bachelors in behavioral science and a masters in counseling and psychology. She currently works as a school counselor. She has been a part of numerous research studies and has done presented on TV, podcasts and conferences.