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Gentle Touch

Our skin is an enormous sensory organ, studded with tiny touch receptors in different layers of the skin. They are dense in some areas and sparse in others. These touch receptors come in different flavors: some respond to light touch, some to deeper pressure, and some to changes in the position of the hairs on our skin. Some 50 years ago, study of these skin receptors in the cat revealed a receptor exquisitely sensitive to slow, gentle stroking of the skin with a bit of pressure - the kind of stroking we associate with massage, or comforting others, or simple gestures of affection. Now we know a bit more about them.

Mothers in many cultures routinely massage their babies with long slow strokes along the back and legs, or across their bellies. This calms the babies and teaches them what it feels like to be calm.

Think about comforting a friend, or a child. Long slow strokes across their back, affirming that they are not alone, and helping to calm the tension induced by fear or grief or hurt.

Or maybe you’ve had a rough week, so you decide to get a soothing massage.