The Psychology Behind Self-Touch

Self-compassion is the antidote to self-criticism.

With the epidemic of anxiety and depression in our modern society, recent research has begun to look into the psychological effects of massage and self-touch. Our skin is an incredibly sensitive organ and it has been found that physical touch activates the self-soothing parasympathetic nervous system to centre and ground your body and mind. It also activates our opiate-oxytocin system which balances heightened emotions, stabilises heart rate variability and provides a sense of security.

How can I use this information to help myself?

An easy way to care for and comfort yourself when you’re feeling self-critical is to give yourself supportive touch. Although this may feel unusual to your conscious mind, your body isn’t conditioned to know this. Your body will respond to the physical gesture of warmth and care, just as a baby responds to being held and loved. You might like to try putting your hand on your heart during times of heightened stress or anxiety. While doing this, tune into the natural rise and fall of your chest, notice your heartbeat and the warmth of your hand. Using these techniques along with positive self-talk can help bring a sense of calm and peace into your busy day to day life.