When a child is hurt, a caring adult can reach out with a soothing touch and a soft voice to comfort them. That soothing touch and gentle voice taps into the mammalian caregiver response, prompting the release of oxytocin and opiates in both adults and children. Many people don’t realize they can give themselves that same act of nurturing.
Here’s how it works.
Place your hands on your own body with the intention of soothing yourself whenever you feel bad.
By doing this simple act, you tap into your mammalian caregiver response and your body releases soothing oxytocin and opiates. The release of these calming hormones counteracts the cortisol and adrenaline that are released into your brain during stressful moments.
Cortisol and adrenaline get released whenever you have a fight/flight/freeze response. If you then beat yourself up or become self-critical for having the negative emotion (i.e., “I screwed up; I always screw everything up,”), you add a second poison arrow, making the reaction you feel even worse.
To take back control over that ruminating cycle and regulate your system in a positive way, try soothing touch. It’s easy and effective no matter what is happening in your life.
Put your hands over your heart. Or, if your heart isn’t your soothing place, try your belly, your face, or your arms. Place your hands on your body and notice where you feel them relax into you, and where your body feels soothed.
You will begin to feel calm, but only if your intent is genuine. This is not about faking a cure. This is about having a true connection between your mind, your body, and your emotions.
Soothing touch can be a remarkably powerful gesture with instantaneous results of self-nurturance. If you don’t feel it right away, wait, count to ten, and do it again.