Is there anything more relaxing than massage therapy?
The value of a good massage far transcends mirror relaxation. It turns out that massage therapy can be incredibly beneficial for one’s mental health. Keep reading to learn more.
Massage therapy for mental health: a chemical experience?
It turns out that the very same neurochemicals that make registered massage therapy so relaxing also confer other physical and mental benefits. The moment a massage begins, your body’s endocannabinoid system, as well as numerous other systems, begin producing larger than normal amounts of anandamide and other neurotransmitters. These are actually some of the very same neurotransmitters responsible for runners’ high — and the psychotropic high that occurs when you use cannabis. In a very real sense, massage therapy allows your body and mind to get high without any external intervention.
Different types of bodywork (a larger umbrella term that includes massage therapy) provide different spectrums of benefits. Deep tissue massage or rolfing, for example, may improve whole body conductivity by hydrating the collagen networks that act as electrical channels. Yet these same types of massage therapy are often so painful that they don’t feel great in the moment. Athletes may want to prioritize these types of massage.
Lighter modalities like Abhyanga massage or techniques like cupping, on the other hand, may allow one to see benefits faster… particularly if we’re talking about mental health benefits. Those looking for relief from anxiety, depression or ptsd may want to steer towards these gentler modalities.
Massage therapy’s top mental health benefits
So, how exactly does registered massage therapy impact one’s mental health? Take a look at the potential benefits below to get a better idea. Frequent massage therapy sessions have been correlated with:
- Reduced rates of anxiety
- Reduced rates of depression
- Reduced ADHD-associated problems
- (And improved focus in those who don’t have ADHD)
- Improved creativity level
- Improved productivity levels at school or work
- Improved tolerance to exercise
- Improved resistance to stress
- Better general health outcomes
- A brighter outlook on life
- Citations go here
Yes, we snuck in some physical benefits here, too. How does a singular type of therapy lead to such varied mental and physical benefits? It appears that massage therapy activates something almost primordial within the human body — our craving for touch. And this basic need activates a whole hormonal cascade when it’s satisfied.
Massage therapy into a mental health routine
As great as massage therapy may be, research indicates that the benefits obtained from a single session don’t last forever. This makes sense given that a massage’s physical benefits also wear off over time.
In light of this, it’s probably a good idea to have regular massage therapy sessions at least once a month — or even more if your budget allows.
Another possibility? Retaining the benefits of a massage session may be as simple as keeping your endocannabinoid system firing on all cylinders. That can be done by getting plenty of sleep, eating healthy fats (think Omega-3’s and saturated fats), and partaking in a form of exercise you actually enjoy.
Summing things up
A good massage allows one to momentarily escape mental and physical stress. And though this escape is indeed only momentary, the benefits of a massage session last for a far longer than the massage itself. Hundreds of studies and millions of personal testimonies all point to the same truth: massage therapy can be hugely helpful for anyone who needs to ameliorate stress.
Whether you have anxiety, depression, ADHD, PTSD, or any other mental health condition, massage therapy is unlikely to hurt and very likely to help. Even those of us who don’t have any clinical conditions are likely to benefit from massage, whether we’re parents or business people or retirees or elite athletes.