Since April is National Stress-Awareness Month, I thought the best way to celebrate would be for me to address how massage therapy can lower cortisol levels, increase dopamine and serotonin (our happy hormones) and lower excitatory hormones like norepinephrine and epinephrine. Having too much norepinephrine or epinephrine can lead to feelings of anxiety. Whereas, having little dopamine and serotonin can cause depression and other psychological problems.
What Massage Does to Your Body:
Parasympathetic nervous system is the part of the involuntary nervous system that serves to slow the heart rate. Your body can move between two main states of being the sympathetic state and a parasympathetic state. The sympathetic mode is what we think of as fight-or-flight mode. It’s when the body triggers the autonomic nervous system’s stress hormones and ups our adrenal response. Most of us are in some level of sympathetic state just dealing with day-to-day stresses. Massage has been shown to help the body shift into a parasympathetic state. By supporting real stress relief, massage can set the body into a “rest and digest mode.” What’s great is even a relaxation massage creates chances to chemically support a healthier state of being.
Multiple studies have also shown that regular massage decreases hormones that cause anxiety and increase hormones that cause calm and happy feelings. As a result, cortisol levels are lowered which help mood and overall health.
How often one should get a massage depends on their individual physiological state. Some people find amazing benefits during the first session, others take more time to settle in and fully receive the treatment. One of the other aspects of massage that can be helpful is that the more massage you receive the more you gain from it’s benefits. Kind of like the way you work up the endurance to run a marathon, the more your body receives massage, the deeper and more effective massage becomes. So, like most things related to great health, the more consistent you are the greater your outcomes.
Slowing down and taking the time to do something that nurtures our bodies in a more gentle way is something we need to do even if it feels like “wasting time” initially. Eventually, I am sure more people will view massage as an essential part of physical and psychological health maintenance, rather than a luxury to be indulged in when we have spare time. One should never underestimate the power of taking even an hour for yourself to breath, rest and receive therapeutic attention. It does a lot more good towards well-being than we can imagine.