I touched on this subject about four years ago, but feel that it is a subject that should be brought up again. Mental health is extremely important and should not be ignored. With World Mental Health Day approaching on October 10th, I figured now is a good time to revisit how massage can help with mental health and depression.
Stress, anxiety, and depression are natural feelings. However, these feelings can be debilitating and have negative impacts on your overall health and well-being, especially if they are constant or frequent. Stress is an underlining factor to anxiety and depression, and mental health in general. It is said that 75-90% of doctor visits each year are due to stress related illnesses. That is a pretty large percentage that could be preventable or reduced.
Depression can manifest in various forms. There is no one size fits all for depression. Everyone experiences it differently, which makes it a little more difficult to understand and treat. Depression is not just a mental, but an emotional and physical health issue. When someone is depressed, they may feel sad, lonely, hopeless, angry, or a slew of other emotions. Many also frequently describe feeling heavy, tired, achy, have back pain, and headaches. Depression is all encompassing, which can lead many to feel helpless and debilitated.
Psychotherapy has been a long standing and proven benefit to helping those who struggle with depression and other mental health conditions. Talking to a licensed professional can help you to recognize, address, and learn coping and preventative strategies to reduce and avoid the feelings of depression. Medications may be prescribed to help as well. Another complimentary form of therapy to help depression and other mental health conditions is massage therapy. I say complimentary, as in it is a great addition to seeing a doctor and psychotherapist. Massage is not a cure all for depression, but it does have many great benefits that help reduce and manage depression in many people.
Here are some ways massage therapy can help with mental health and depression:
• Relaxes and soothes the nervous system
• Lowers cortisol levels (the primary stress hormone) up to 50%
• Boosts dopamine and serotonin production (the feel-good endorphins) up to 30%
• Increases blood circulation and flow, which helps with fatigue and blood pressure
• Helps reduce muscle and joint pain, including headaches that can manifest with depression
• Establishes a positive mind-body connection and awareness.
• Provides a safe and nurturing touch that the body craves (since the day we are born)
With any treatment, constant and frequent appointments are best to see the greatest results. Depending on the person, a weekly, every other week, or monthly massage sessions may be effective at reducing and managing their depression and mental health. Like breaking the pain cycle, causing a positive disruption to the negative effects of depression and other mental health conditions helps the mind and body learn to heal itself. However, each individual is different, and sessions are addressed on case by case basis.
As a License Massage Therapist, it is my goal to create a calm, inviting, and safe environment for my clients to receive massage therapy. It is a no judgement zone. Building trust is key to allow me to listen and nurture the body and mind while the client is on the massage table. That time on the table is reserved for the client to find peace of mind, relief from stress and pain, to feel one with oneself. To find that positive mind-body connection, self-awareness, and self-love. The power of touch has many healing capabilities and helps aid the body to heal itself. Massage is a like a warm embrace or hug that says you are seen, heard, and important in this life.
If you or someone you know suffers from depression and mental health issues, please seek help right away. Everyone struggles, but some feel it more strongly than others. Show love and support by listening and being a stable person in their life. This year’s World Mental Health Day theme is focused on suicide prevention. If you or someone you know has thoughts about hurting themselves or suicide, please seek help from a professional or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. Every life matters. No one is insignificant in this life. Let’s help one another. Here is a link to learn more about WMHD and suicide prevention: https://wfmh.global/world-mental-health-day-2019/
Courtney Truax, LMT is a graduate of East West College of the Healing Arts in Portland, Oregon. She is licensed through the Oregon Board of Massage Therapy and a member of the American Massage Therapy Association. She has her own studio massage practice in the heart of downtown Lake Oswego, Oregon.