October is mental health awareness month. People of all ages and walks of life can suffer from a variety of mental health difficulties. Each of us is likely to know someone personally who suffers from a mental illness, or know of someone who has a loved one who struggles with mental health difficulties. Mental health struggles can look different for each person and can manifest in various ways such as irritability, excessive fear or worry, social withdrawal or eating or sleeping difficulties.
Helping someone who is suffering from mental health disorders can be as simple as listening to them when they need to talk or helping them find a professional who can help them. It’s important for them to know that it’s okay to need help and that they are not alone.
As a massage therapist, I know there are many people who view massage as a luxury or as a way to pamper themselves, but massage can play an important role in the treatment of many different physical and emotional ailments. In light of mental health awareness month, I would love to share the benefits massage can have on our mental state.
Chronic pain has shown to have an effect on one’s mental state. Having to deal with pain and or discomfort day in and day out can be overwhelming at times. Not to mention the activities and events that are missed due to chronic pain. Massage can help relieve pain associated with many kinds of muscular problems and therefore relieve the mental stress of dealing with the pain.
Massage also plays a part in stabilizing the body’s hormonal balance. The University of Miami Touch Research Institute has conducted studies that conclude how massage therapy has also been shown to improve symptoms of various mental health problems including anxiety, depression, anorexia, and stress. Massage helps to reduce the body’s stress hormone, cortisol, which causes inflammation in the body and suppresses the immune system. Massage also helps to increase serotonin, dopamine and oxytocin levels which help boost your mood and promote restful sleep and feelings of well-being and relaxation. According to Bridges to Recovery, a residential mental health organization, ”One study published in the International Journal of Neuroscience found that serotonin increased an average of 28% and dopamine levels increased 31% following massage therapy.“ Also, “according to a series of studies reviewed by the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami School of Medicine, cortisol levels fell by up to 53% among subjects ‘with depression or stress problems’ immediately following massage therapy.”
If you, or someone you know is feeling overwhelmed or anxious, or dealing with a chronic pain issue, a massage may be just the thing they need to get out of the funk and feel refreshed and ready for whatever life has in store for them.
Are you interested in more information? References are listed below.