How massage supports mental health
Human touch is essential for our well-being, affecting our development in childhood and emotional wellness. When we are touched, our brain releases oxytocin, serotonin and dopamine. These hormones promote a sense of connection, happiness and relaxation.
Alongside this, human touch has the potential to lower cortisol, the stress hormone. Too much stress can be bad for both our mental and physical health, leading to muscle tension, headaches, anxiety and even depression over time.
A study carried out in 2013 looked at the effects of massage on those with occupational stress experienced by Intensive Care Unit nurses. In the study one group were given two 25-minute massages a week for four weeks, and the other group did not.
The results showed the group who received massages were overall less stressed, with a significant drop in stress levels being recorded. This shows the power regular massage can have on stress levels.
As well as reducing stress, massage promotes healthy sleep, something that’s necessary for good mental health. When we don’t get enough sleep, symptoms of anxiety and depression can feel harder to deal with and we may feel less emotionally resilient.
Massage lowers blood pressure and eases tense muscles, helping you feel more ready for sleep.
If your massage therapist uses essential oils, the benefits of aromatherapy can enhance your experience too. Speak to your massage therapist about this and see which oils could support you best right now.
You may want a scent that will relax you further, or you may want something to lift your mood.
Getting a massage can also encourage connection, not only to others, but to yourself. It can help to increase self-awareness as you notice where your body holds tension. This time on the massage table also gives you total permission to switch off. You don’t have to check your emails or look at your phone. You don’t have to think about your to-do list for the week.
If you can, try to use your massage as an opportunity to practice mindfulness. Focus on the experience and let go of your worries completely.
In order to feel able to switch off completely during a massage, it helps to feel comfortable with your massage therapist. To find someone who is right for you and your needs, you can use our search tool. Consider what type of massage you want, whether or not you want aromatherapy oils to be used and where you can travel to (or whether or not they can come to you).
Once you have found the right person for you, get in touch with them and book your first massage (read our tips on how to prepare for a massage). If you’re happy with the results, try and include regular massages into your self-care routine.
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