Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Power of Touch

Written on by terry in PTSD, Wellness
 The skin is approximately 20 sq. ft. the size of a twin mattress. When someone gives you a hug or touches you  just under the skin there are pressure receptors called the Pacinian Corpuscles says Tiffany Fields from the Touch research lab at the University of Miami. They receive pressure stimulation and this sends a signal to the brain directly to a very important nerve bundle called the Vagus Nerve, sometimes referred to as “the wanderer” because it has branches that wander into the body and to internal organs. It also goes to other parts of the body like the heart and can slow heart rate down. Field research was done with people preparing to give public speeches or facing a stressful event and found that being hugged or having their hand held would lower their blood pressure and heart rate. When hugged or holding hands it decreases the stress hormone called cortisol,  produced by the adrenal glands when we’re facing a stressful situation.
Lower Cortisol and increase Oxytocin
Matt Hertenstein a psychologist from De Pauw University says that being able to tamp down our cortisol levels is healthy for us. Having this friendly touch and simply holding  hands buffers the effect of this hormone. In addition to calming us down a friendly touch or massage also increases the release of a hormone called oxytocin referred to at times as the trust hormone. It’s also called the cuddle hormone eliciting feelings of bonding, and connection. Oxytocin is a neuropeptide that acts as a neurotransmitter which promotes this feeling of trust and bonding.  It really lays the biological foundation for connecting to one another. It also just makes us feel good. Recent studies from England have pinpointed that an area of the brain that becomes highly activated in response to touch is the Orbital Frontal Cortex, just above the eyes, it  is the same area that responds to sweet tastes and pleasing smells.  Touch actually lights up the Frontal Cortex, much like chocolate. It also lowers  Heart Rate and Blood Pressure.
Hugs are better than Drugs!
Temple Grandin a doctor of animal science,  and a person with high functioning autism is a professor at Colorado University. She is also a consultant to the livestock industry in animal behavior. Grandin, well known for her work in autism advocacy  is the inventor of the hug machine designed to calm hypersensitive persons.
I plan on writing more about cortisol, the stress hormone,  how it affects us, what we can do to buffer it,  and how it relates to PTSD, Trauma , Addiction and Weight Management.
So reach out and hug somebody and let someone hug you. It feels good and it’s good for you

Thursday, March 1, 2012

How Yoga can Teach us to Enjoy that in between Space

In yoga…transitioning from one posture to another, slowly and mindfully, can teach us to appreciate life’s journey rather than the destination.
Have you ever found yourself rushing through the day from place to place, task to task, thought to thought?  As we get caught up in life and our responsibilities it rarely occurs to us, until we experience health problems, loss, or the consequences of stress, that we are not experiencing the present moment, the space between our busyness. It’s like planting seeds and totally missing the beauty of the seedlings sprouting while rushing to water them between other tasks. We get caught up in the end result, the fruits of our labor, rather than the unfolding.
We can do the same thing in yoga. We are so anxious to get to the fullness of the posture, either to move on to the next one or to flex the ego mastering difficult postures. The sweet spot is in the middle. If we move mindfully into the posture taking our time and enjoying the breath and conscious movement, we can translate that into our daily life to slow down and enjoy the places between effort and result.