To me our sense of touch is possibly the most sensual of our senses, it’s not necessarily the most important because as we are discovering our senses work as a team, allied with our brain to bring us those everyday sensations of perceptions we call our reality. Touch is an inherent human need, we also desire (often without realising it) to touch and be touched. From a baby reaching out for its Mother to those hugs we give and receive out of friendship and of course love. They are vital to each and every one of us and are the fundamental building blocks of good health and feelings of well-being. When we are stimulated by touch, whether that be a caress from a loving partner, a relaxing massage, the feel of freshly laundered sheets or the simple act of stroking our pets, the sensation we feel releases a wide range of healing neuro-chemicals which strengthen our immune system, improves blood circulation, aids our digestion and can help us get a better and rewarding nights sleep.
Touch is also one of our natural defence mechanisms, we quickly draw our hand away when we touch something too hot, cold, sharp or that gives us pain such as the sting from a nettle when walking in the country or perhaps the feel of rough/unstable ground beneath our feet warning us to take extra care. All are instinctive reactions created from the signals sent from our skins receptors (nerves) to our brain which then tells us to act to protect ourselves from further harm. However touch is much more than just a means of enabling us to stay safe and ‘feel our way through the day’ as I hope I’ll help you to discover in these posts. Today more and more research is showing us the benefits we can get from the healing and communicative powers of touch and are being recognised and used in therapeutic treatments of emotional, physical and mental healthcare; with plants, gardening and nature being major players in the process. All of which is why I’m a great supporter and advocate for getting youngsters into contact with nature as much as possible and as early as possible. Check out the ‘research & studies’ available on the amazing Children & Nature Network webpage and I’m certain that you’ll soon recognise why I believe that getting children to discover the world around them for themselves, to play ‘together’ in and with nature is the beginning of achieving the changes we all want to see in the world …. our natural, physical, emotional and mental worlds of well-being.
Nature is a fantastic resource we can all use in enhancing our sense of touch. It’s certainly what provides me with the connectedness I feel with the world when gardening. It educates and thrills me, it leaves me wanting to experience, experiment and touch it more and more every single time. Its lessons are wide and varied, from knowing the condition of the soil by squeezing and rolling it around your hand whilst at the same time letting it trickle through your fingers will (with practice) tell you the story of what lays hidden beneath its surface, at root level. Getting to know which plants like certain conditions by feeling their leaves; whether they are waxy, furry or smooth give you the signs of their preferences and connectedness with each other (species connected to species). From this knowledge we can supply our gardens with all the organic matter and other environmental nutrient providers (light, shade, warmth, minerals and water), that like our own bodies and brains, it needs to thrive and grow into the healthiest and best it can be. In fact one of my own personal and newly rediscovered touch sensations is in the preparation of a healthy meal full of natures own natural nutrients! We can all become more aware of our sense of touch, that wonderful feeling of getting to know the world by exploring nature. Simply by touching a few different kinds of trees you will experience varying textures of bark; rough, smooth or rippled. Experiment and try ‘seeing them through your fingertips’ instead of your eyes; practice again and again until you can recognise them blindfolded. Of course whenever I refer to ‘nature’ I’m talking about everything that connects us as humans with the outside world, so if hugging trees isn’t your ‘thing’ then here’s a great video that may help you to find something ‘in nature’ that does, it shows you ‘Your Brain on Nature.’ Although it covers all of our senses, touch is that vital tactile ingredient that brings the outside, in!
I’m going to assume that by now you have some great ideas of your own on how to enhance your sense of touch, but here’s one more little tip! After you’ve experimented and experienced all you can take for one day of being out and about in nature or wherever your choice may have taken you, why not stretch your sensual-self just that little bit more and take the opportunity to relax and recuperate at the same time. Have a long lingering bath or shower, close your eyes and focus on how the water feels on your skin. Each part of our body/skin surface detects and reacts differently to touch, so go ahead experiment and enjoy the full experience!
Whether it’s in the shower or out in nature, Enhance Your Senses and Enhance Your Life!