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Massage and mental health

Massage isn’t just for achy muscles. It can be quite the relief for an achy spirit. Massage and mental health go hand-in-hand.

See if you can identify with any of these scenarios.

Meet Margaret. Between caring for her mom with Alzheimer’s disease and learning her new normal after her last child leaves for college, Margaret feels overwhelmed and somewhat depressed. Lately, she finds it hard to climb out of bed in the morning. The grief of watching her mom waste away is just too much. For Mother’s Day, Margaret’s daughter gives her a gift certificate for a massage. At first, Margaret feels she can’t take the time for such luxuries, but something inside her tells her to go. As the massage therapist does her magic, Margaret feels the sadness drain from her body. Her therapist has to remind her to relax a few times, but by the time the massage is concluded, Margaret feels revived and ready to face another day.

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Meet Joe. After 20 years of marriage, his wife, Cindy, walks out without a word. Though he knows he has to move on, he finds himself stuck in a cycle of despair and isolation. He just can’t bring himself to “get out there” and start living again. He sees an ad online for massages and decides to give it a try. As the kind massage therapist works on his neck, back and arms, he experiences the power of human touch. It reminds him that he needs people and that people need him. On his drive home from the spa, he vows to stop isolating and to start living, so he can experience healthy connections once again.

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Meet Elizabeth. Just six weeks ago, Elizabeth buried her husband of 45 years. The silence in her home is deafening. What she misses most is the way her Charlie patted her shoulder every time he passed by. Her granddaughter, Becky, surprises her with a massage. Becky knows her grandma has never had a massage before, so she makes it a couple’s massage so she can be there for support. At first, Elizabeth feels sheepish, but Becky assures her it will feel amazing and will boost her spirits. As the massage therapist lays her skillful hands on Elizabeth’s neck and shoulders, tears of relief stream down her cheeks. Oh, how good it feels to be touched again!

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There is a powerful connection between the mind and body. When the mind is burdened with stress, grief, depression and other heavy things, the body goes into protective mode, which results in muscle tension and pain. Massage helps the body release tension, and the mind follows the body’s lead.

In his article on Goodtherapy.org, “Exploring the Psychologal Benefits of Massage,” Stephen L. Salter, PsyD states:

Depression can be seen as an estrangement from a caring world. The sense of being “held” in a massage awakens a feeling of being cared about, as the therapist’s focus is a kind of concentrated care for the client. Massage offers an opportunity for learning a different way of being. Your body may begin to realize that it doesn’t have to tense up so much when work gets stressful. If depression is the expectation that you will not receive the connection and nurturance that you need, a massage can rattle the rigid sense of isolation. Rigidity then dissolves. It liquefies into the stream of life.

The next time you aren’t feeling quite like yourself, remember the beautiful connection between massage and mental health. While a massage won’t solve all your problems, it will give you strength for the journey through the power of human touch.

 

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