Things like therapy, journaling, cognitive defusion, and recording your thoughts can reduce or even eliminate your mental health issues, including anxiety. When you work on your mind, it heals faster, but interestingly enough, you can also heal your mind through physical touch and massage.
Massages help with anxiety because they help your body produce serotonin and dopamine, while cortisol, the stress hormone, decreases significantly. Massages also help you sleep deeply, lower your heart rate, unwind, and calm your mind: all these benefits can do wonders for those who suffer from stress and anxiety.
Keep reading to find out more…
How massage helps with anxiety
1. Serotonin, dopamine, and cortisol
It has been shown that even a short thirty minute session helps the body increase the production of certain chemicals that make us feel better. When you get a massage, your body releases more serotonin (up to a 30% increase) and dopamine. These two chemicals give us a sense of peace, relaxation, and overall well being.
Moreover, massage decreases cortisol, which is the stress hormone. Cortisol makes us alert and gives us more energy, and it is a very useful hormone if we are facing a threat or a “fight or flight” situation. Unfortunately, those who suffer from anxiety have very high levels of cortisol, which, over time, makes them unable to fully relax.
Though in some cases of extreme anxiety medication may be needed, in general you do not need medications to increase the production of the “feel good” chemicals of your body. Much like physical exercise, massage is an excellent way to release endorphins naturally, without nasty side effects.
2. Better sleep
Massage can do wonders for those who suffer from insomnia; and even if you sleep well, a massage session will significantly increase the quality of your sleep. As we’ve seen, serotonin production can increase up to 30% with a single session, and serotonin is directly linked to melatonin — the sleep hormone.
This is good news because being able to rest properly is vital for those who have anxiety. It has been shown that all forms of anxiety can cause sleep problems, and vice versa: sleep problems are likely to cause stress and anxiety.
When you get a massage, your body is able to fully relax — not just during the session, but throughout the day, in some cases for several days. This means that you are able to fall asleep faster, sleep deeply, and potentially sleep longer. In turn, this will naturally reduce your feelings of stress and worry.
3. Physical touch
Though physical touch is vital when we are little, it’s one of the basic human needs regardless of our age. Even as adults, we still need to connect with others physically, whether it’s hugging someone, making eye contact, or intimacy.
Though there are many different types of massage, they are all based on the power of touch. Through pressure and gentle strokes, massage releases oxytocin, the “love” hormone that gives us a sense of empathy, warmth, and slight euphoria. Not surprisingly, this helps with anxiety as well as many other mental health problems.
4. Self love
More often than not, those who suffer from anxiety need to practice self-love more than others. They need to put themselves first and truly take care of their mental, physical, and spiritual health.
In today’s world, being super busy and having no free time seems to have become the norm, but it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s healthy. All of us — but those who have anxiety in particular — should make me time a priority and focus on our own health before thinking about what we can do for others.
Getting a soothing massage is a wonderful way to practice self love and disconnect from the external world temporarily. If you are anxious or stressed out, you should get massaged often, ideally every week. You deserve it!
5. It shuts off the mind
When you are anxious, your mind is usually too alert and active. You experience negative thoughts way too often; you dwell on your past, or worry about the future; you find it hard to turn off your brain. Over time, this mental state can cause further stress and anxiety.
Thankfully, one of the great benefits of massage is that it frees your mind. During a massage session, you don’t think about anything in particular. During the first ten to twenty minutes, your brain may still be active, and you may experience random thoughts, however after a while your mind will simply let go, and shut off.
Think of massage as restful sleep and meditation at the same time. When the massage session ends, you feel calm and refreshed; your body is fully relaxed, and so is your mind. If you have anxiety and you need to stop overthinking, massage can do wonders for you.
6. Decreased heart rate
Many studies have shown that massage reduces heart rate. A slower heart rate is linked to good health, relaxation, and even a longer life. Those who have anxiety, especially those suffering from panic disorders, often experience a high heart rate or even palpitations.
Though palpitations are not dangerous, if you constantly have a high heart rate you are more likely to experience health problems. A massage session increases blood circulation, lowers blood pressure, and reduces heart rate, and is particularly beneficial to those who have issues with anxiety.
The seventh and last reason massage can help with anxiety is that massage therapists often use essential oils to increase relaxation. This is called “aromatherapy”. The scent of plant extracts can affect our mind and body, which is why it is used in many holistic therapies.
Essential oils like lavender, rose, geranium, jasmine, and bergamot promote relaxation; peppermint can help with mental clarity and energy. If you are anxious or stressed out, aromatherapy massage can help you relax and reduce your symptoms. Not all therapists use essential oils, so if you want to give this a try, tell them in advance.
The best massages for anxiety
Though all kinds of massage will be beneficial to your physical and mental health, some are particularly good for anxiety because of their soothing effects. If you tend to be anxious, chances are you will benefit from the following:
- Swedish massage
- Balinese massage
- Hawaiian massage
- Shiatsu massage
Have you ever had a massage? How did you feel after the session? Let me know by leaving a comment 👇