Stress less with massage therapy

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Psychologist and self-help gurus have been telling us for years the power of positive thinking. We are told that if we change our negative thoughts to positive ones, we can change the way we feel.

Fair enough I say. After all, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out that if you tell yourself thoughts such as “I’m stupid” and “I have to be perfect otherwise I’m a failure” then you’re probably not going to feel very good about yourself.

But am I the only one who feels slightly irritated when someone tells me to smile and “Think happy thoughts!” when I’m in a negative, low mood?

What if you really struggle to change the way you think? What if that nagging negative inner voice and all the stress that comes with it just won’t go away?

According to recent research published in The Journal of Alternative and Complimentary Medicine there may be hope for those of us who struggle to tame our negative inner voice – massage.

Most of us assume that the benefits of massage come from releasing tension from our muscles. Whilst this is certainly true, research now shows that having a massage may also be connected to biological changes in the brain.

Research conducted at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles found that having a 45-minute massage (either a deep tissue Swedish or Light massage) caused changes in stress hormones in participants’ brains.

In their experiment, 53 healthy adults were randomly assigned to have either a 45-minute deep tissue Swedish massage or a 45-minute light massage. Blood samples were taken before and after each massage.

The results were surprisingly. Participants who received the Swedish massage experienced a significant drop in the cortisol (i.e. stress hormone) as well as other hormones associated with increasing cortisol.

What about the light massage? Was it just a waste of time? Certainly not! Participants who experienced the light massage, had greater increases in a hormone associated with contentment as well as a decrease in a hormone that stimulates the adrenal glands to release cortisol.

For many of us the best way to change our mood may not be through changing our thoughts but through working with our physical body (e.g. getting a massage and/or some exercise). This is certainly the case for me.

So next time someone tells you to “Smile and think positive thoughts” you can graciously tell them “Thanks for the suggestion, but I think I’ll go and get a massage instead”.

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