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Science Says These 2 Touch Meditations Can Soothe Anxiety

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August 27, 2019
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Tuning into the senses can help beginner and seasoned meditators alike quiet the mind and focus the attention elsewhere. Sound is probably the most-discussed meditation aid, but what about touch? In this excerpt from Instant Calm: 2-Minute Meditations To Create a Lifetime of Happy, author Karen Salmansohn shares two fun touch meditations to add to your self-care tool box.

I want to help you feel less anxiety—by feeling more things with your hands!

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Yes! I'm gonna help you to be less touchy...by giving you a range of things to touch. There are a variety of fun (and G-rated) touch meditations that have you reaching out and touching soft stuff, wet stuff, scratchy stuff, and grassy stuff.

Chances are that you've done a touch meditation before—without realizing it.

When you were a kid, you probably had a teddy bear or some favorite stuffed animal toy. One of the reasons you loved your stuffed animal (other than the fact that it was so gosh-darn adorable) was because it was so gosh-darn soft. Every time you hugged your stuffed animal, you became mesmerized by its comforting softness. You were unwittingly doing a touch meditation.

The feel of its cozy fur wound up distracting you from whatever was making you sad or scared. Eventually, the more you hugged your soft and cuddly stuffed animal, the more comfort you felt. In this way, your stuffed animal became an anchoring tool. Simply touching it lightly made you feel incredibly safe and secure.

Coming up are a few recommended tactile treats to help you relax during stressful times. If you regularly use these touch meditations, you'll have a powerful arsenal—literally!—at your fingertips.

An acupressure point meditation.

This meditation is literally very handy. You practice hand reflexology by touching yourself on the hand at specific acupressure points.

In a 2017 hand reflexology study published in Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice1, patients who were to undergo coronary angiography were divided into two groups. Group 1 was given hand reflexology. Group 2 got nada. The people who received this simple hand massage wound up feeling a lot less anxiety.

A 2011 study at the University of Portsmouth reported how hand reflexology helps to treat stress-related headaches. According to this six-month study, the people who did these hand massages received the following benefits:

  • Experienced reduced symptoms: 55%
  • Stopped having headaches completely: 23%
  • Able to stop taking headache medication: 19%
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Warning: Pregnant women should avoid acupressure because certain pressure points can induce contractions! Also, if you have any health issues, check with your doctor before trying acupressure.

How to do it.

Palm reading: Next time you're feeling anxious, reach out and feel an acupressure point!

Image by Sarah Ferone / Instant Calm
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1. Feeling overwhelmed? Gently massage your Heart 7 (HT7) point for one minute on each hand. This acupressure point can be found right below your wrist crease, where your outer hand is.

Image by Sarah Ferone / Instant Calm

2. Got a stress headache? Gently massage—and even pinch—your fleshy L14 point for one minute on each hand.

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Extra Credit

Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center recommends doing hand acupressure to promote blood circulation and alleviate physical pain throughout your body.

A running water meditation.

Take a shower and multitask by washing away your stress and anxiety. Concentrate on the feel of the water on your skin.

There's actually a fancy scientific term for the proven feel-good joy a shower brings: hydrotherapy. Translation? It's the curative use of water to help with health, pain, and relaxation.

Hot-off-the-press info: Researchers at the Swedish University of Natural Sciences linked the elements of hot showers to boosts in oxytocin levels and reduced anxiety.

Some very cool info: According to researchers at the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine2, a cold shower is both invigorating and mood-boosting. Why? The shock of cold activates beta-endorphins (the molecules famed for creating a sense of well-being) and noradrenaline in the brain—both of which put you in a better mood. (That second one is actually something found in many antidepressants.)

No matter the temperature you pick, simply immersing yourself in water is reported to increase production of beta-endorphins.

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How to do it.

Wash away your negativity: Step into the shower. Become aware of the water's temperature—its balance of hot versus cold. Squeeze out some body wash and feel its soft sudsiness on your skin. Grab a loofah and feel its scratchy surface on your skin. After you've done this for a few minutes, take some time to envision the power of the shower water washing away your negative thoughts! Whoosh! Envision fear, regret, and anger washing off you and swirling down the drain.

Reprinted from Instant Calm. Copyright © 2019 by Karen Salmansohn. Illustrations copyright © 2019 by Sarah Ferone. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House, LLC.

Karen Salmansohn
Karen Salmansohn

Karen Salmansohn is an NYC-based happiness and wellness expert and author of many self-improvement books, with over one million copies sold. After careers in advertising and Hollywood, she followed her dream and returned to New York to write books. Salmansohn studied to be a yoga and meditation teacher at Ishta Yoga and launched her brand NotSalmon.com. She has since been a featured happiness expert on Today, The View, CNN, Fox News, and Real Time with Bill Maher, as well as in Time Magazine, Marie Claire, Self, ELLE, The New Yorker, and more. Salmansohn has her bachelor's in film from Emerson College.