Are you touching yourself regularly? (And no, I don’t mean masturbating.) Are you touching your body’s skin regularly? You should. And you especially should if you don’t have a partner and are living alone.
As our bodies age, changes occur that are often upsetting to us. Perhaps we don’t enjoy looking at ourselves as much as we used to. Sagging and wrinkling skin reminds that none of us get out of here alive.
But older bodies still thrive on touch — both the touch of others, and self-touch.
Unfortunately, self-touching that is not highly sexual is just not spoken about. For instance, if you Google “self-touch,” the first several pages are all about masturbation — as if touching yourself in loving, nonsexual but sensual way is highly unusual, or simply didn’t happen.
I just had an experience where I became aware of the fact that many people, as they age, are becoming completely alienated from their bodies and from the joy of touch.
I went to my beloved garden group — a wonderful gathering of men and (mostly) women of all ages. It was the holidays, and so we were doing a Yankee gift swap. Foolishly, instead of wrapping up a puzzle or a plant, I wrapped up a buffalo horn Gua Sha tool.
Gua Sha is a Chinese medicine practice that uses a flat-edged tool to scrape and press down on your body. It’s a kind of assisted massage.For me, the tool feels better scraping along your arms, legs, neck, and face, then just massaging yourself in other ways (i.e., with your bare fingers). Because the Gua Sha tool is a smooth but thin piece of carved stone, it seems to get into a deeper layer of muscle in a targeted way than modern self-massagers. When you grasp the Gua Sha tool, you get a stronger of what you are holding. And it doesn’t make a lot of racket like electronic massagers, either.
Chinese practitioners use Gua Sha to aid in alleviating pain and increasing circulation all over the body.
Back to the Yankee Swap …
So, the older woman who unwrapped my gift was completely baffled by it. I explained to her how it is used and how good it feels to use it. She looked at me as if I were certifiably insane, like she was thinking, “Why on earth would anyone want to touch themself?”
Of course, she wouldn’t have viewed it as strange if I had given her a manicure kit. But the idea of touching herself as a means of self-care or self-pleasure made no sense to her.
Yet as a psychologist and sex therapist who studies and speaks about the importance of touch, the gift made sense to me. Regular self-touch has been shown to affect longevity, improve mental health, boost your immune system, and strengthen muscles.
People do all kinds of unhealthy things to relieve stress — drink, take drugs, overeat. Self-touch, accompanied by kind words to yourself (if you choose), is a great way to reduce stress.
I hope that the next time I see that woman, I have the guts to ask her if she tried the gift. Though I bet she just tossed it in the trash.
And honestly, that makes me sad. Do yourself a favor and check out whether you get pleasure from experimenting with the Gua Sha tool, or any other kind of self-touch.
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