It’s no secret that our daily lives can dictate our mood. Just as getting a promotion or planning a vacation can put a smile on our faces for days on end, things like workplace deadlines, family troubles, and financial worries can have a negative effect on our psychological well-being.
By now, most of us have come to know just how connected the mind and body truly are. So it should come as no surprise that sustaining a poor mood can lead to much more than a grumpy expression. Gloomy or defeatist emotions can manifest themselves in a myriad of ways, including weight gain, skin conditions, and even serious illnesses.
For those of you who love to treat themselves to a massage, we’ve got good news for you. Not only does your massage ease tense muscles and boost relaxation, but you can reduce anxiety with massage, lifting your mood in a way that permeates your body.
First and foremost, there’s human touch. Countless studies have examined the benefits of touch, both as it relates to our development as children and how it affects our sense of the world as adults. Simple touch on a regular basis has been shown to lower blood pressure and increase the “feel-good” hormone, oxytocin — both of which lead to a more optimistic attitude.
Massage itself is like doubling down on this human touch. “Many studies show that massage therapy reduces negative mood states like depression, anxiety, and anger,” says Dr. Tiffany Field of the Touch Research Institute. “Massage therapy can improve a person’s emotional health by reducing stress and stress hormones; by increasing serotonin and thereby depression and pain; and by enhancing immune function and thereby reducing bacterial and viral illnesses.” In fact, a review of more than a dozen studies conducted by the Institute found that harmful levels of cortisol were reduced by up to 53 percent following a massage.
Another benefit people might not think about is the increase in self-awareness. Because of the speed at which many of us live our lives, we rarely stop to examine how our bodies are responding to everyday stress. “Massage treatments give us a time-out in order for us to access the deeper layers of our well-being,” says massage therapist Kristen Sykora. “Just as we take our cars in for regular tune-ups, we too need maintenance.”
While massages are certainly enjoyable, they shouldn’t be viewed as an indulgence. Instead, they should be seen as yet another tool we can use to keep ourselves in the best physical and mental health possible.