It's a new year, and for many that means resolving to create a peaceful and prosperous future for all.
However, the picture is clouded. Governments seem ever ready to drop bombs and skimp on social services. The gap between what we desire and what we see before us creates a constant, sometimes hidden stressor.
One back-to-basics strategy for dealing with this is to reach out and touch someone. Forget the phone. We're talking loving -- though not necessarily sexual -- skin-to-skin contact.
Research indicates that cultures in which people are not afraid to touch frequently have lower rates of interpersonal violence. Caress a friend or family member and not only will you find yourself feeling more relaxed, but you'll also spread the peaceful vibes that matter to those in your orbit of influence. Obviously, touch can't solve all our problems, but it's a pleasurable starting point for anyone who aspires to do more to make this world better.
Tactile communication also improves circulation, lowers stress hormones, reduces depression and isolated feelings, improves immune function and alters brain waves so we enter into heightened awareness. All it takes is a tiny bit of know-how and a commitment to mutual consent and respect. Here are some simple tips.
what the experts say
"Make sure you're feeling relaxed, because that will affect the quality of the touch. Don't think of the past or the future. Take a breath and bring yourself into the present moment -- that's where the healing energy is. Get a nice oil and gently massage the person's feet. Spend time gliding your fingers around the ankles; people hold a lot of tension there. People also love getting their toes rubbed. Grab the base of each toe with the thumb and index finger, milk upwards and gently rub between them."
STEPHEN JONES, certified reflexologist
"You can use your fingertips as though you're giving a good shampooing to the scalp. If a person works at a computer or has been carrying heavy shopping bags, the arms and shoulders will be tired. Squeeze the shoulders and all the way down the arms. (For tension at the base of the skull) use one hand to support the side of the head. Use the index and middle finger of the other hand to do circular movements from behind the ear all the way along the edge of the skull to the middle. You can also press down the middle of the back. Place your thumbs an inch on each side of the spine, but don't touch the spine."
GRACE CHAN, registered massage therapist, osteopath and co-founder of Sutherland-Chan School and Teaching Clinic
"Our palms are a good place to touch ourselves. Just press on the centre of your palms. You can also press on the web between your thumb and index finger on the top of your hand. Press for a breath or so, exhaling with the pressure. If it's sore where you press, you know you've got the right point. Then hold and squeeze the hands. To do belly massage, imagine the numbers of the clock around your belly, start at number 12 or 1 (at the solar plexus) and go around the numbers clockwise, pressing as you exhale."
KALI GIGAS, shiatsu therapist
"The basis of Trager touch is to receive the other person through your hands, rather than seeking to tell or impose something through touch. Release your weight into the other person. The less effort we use when touching, the more sensitive we are. We use gentle rocking to release tension. If someone is lying face down, you can gently rest your hands on their back, allow them to become very full and soft, then allow the weight of your hands, arms and shoulders to sink into them. Then slowly, gently, allow your whole body to start rocking."
PAUL OVERY, Trager practitioner
"Combine a simple essential oil -- lavender, geranium, frankincense or myrrh -- with a carrier oil. Put 10 drops in a 25 ml bottle of sweet almond oil or defractionated coconut oil. Rub it gently on your hands, then rub it on another person's hands, pulses, feet and temples."
DANIELLE SADE, certified aromatherapist
"Make touching a priority in a loving relationship. Never go a day without exchanging touch two or three times. With a lover, pay close attention to your own sensations and the texture, warmth and contours of the person you're touching. Take pleasure in it. Stop focusing on how the other person feels, because that's his or her job. Your job is to pay attention to your own pleasure. To access more sensation, make curvy zigzag motions rather than straight-up-and-down motions. A curvy motion crosses more nerve pathways."
LUCY BECKER, tantra teacher