In our current society one of the most common causes of illness and upset is stress; stress from a fast-paced and demanding environment that overworks us until we can no longer cope effectively.
The other day I took a step back and decided to do something about the tension knots in my neck and thousands of thoughts clouding my mind, booking myself in for a massage.
Thirty minutes later I sauntered out of the salon beaming and feeling as light as a feather. I realized there must be something to this nourishing experience and began my research into the world of pampering.
Massage has been traditionally used for medicinal care in many cultures including Chinese, Egyptian, Greek, Hindu, Japanese, and Roman, among others. In Asia, babies are massaged until toddlers in order to strengthen and instil positive emotional qualities. It was believed that massage had healing properties due to improving lymph and blood circulation. However, in more recent times there has become more of an emphasis on relaxation, with massage helping the psychological and spiritual side of things.
Touch in general has many benefits. Hugging a person releases a hormone called oxytocin, which lowers blood pressure and brings anxiety levels down. Touch can also influence people’s behavior and communicate emotions. One experiment in particular was in a library, in which people rated their time as more enjoyable when “accidentally” touched by someone passing, showing the huge subconscious effect that human physical contact can have.
Researchers have found that babies held and touched more often become less aggressive and clingy and more confident as they grow up. Babies have also been shown to have 20% smaller brains if not touched frequently.
If touch by itself can modify emotions and physical reactions, it’s no wonder that a one-to-one massage for 30 minutes plus can have some amazing effects.
Massage can reduce anxiety and depression, ease pain, improve sleep, boost immunity, help with PMS, increase alertness, help headaches, and improve blood flow and lymphatic drainage (is this enough to convince you?).
Other benefits include relaxation, improved circulation, a reduction of stress hormones, and general feelings of well-being.
In a meta-analysis of 37 scientific studies, significant effects of massage were found, with the largest effect being a reduction in trait anxiety and depression, with a course of treatment showing benefits similar to psychotherapy.
In patients with depression and adjustment disorder, a 30-minute daily back massage for five days showed lower cortisol levels (the stress hormone) and a larger reduction in depression and anxiety than patients who just viewed a relaxing video.
Compared with controls, significant effects on sleep quality have also been highlighted, with recipients of a back massage sleeping an extra hour.
In addition to the relaxation felt after a session of pampering, the scientific evidence listed here states just how beneficial this can be for a whole host of different physical and psychological ailments.
So really, in summary, we should be having massages regularly and treating ourselves to nourishing experiences, with absolutely no guilt whatsoever!