10 Ways a Massage Can Improve Your Mental Health

Written by Chris Bradley

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In the UK, 1 in 14 individuals report feeling stressed every single day. In this day and age, several individuals are prone to high levels of stress, anxiety and low mood due to internal and external factors of life. Moreover, if stress is not effectively managed, it can increase the likelihood of mental health issues and decrease quality of life.

Persistent stress may also affect a person’s sleep, activity levels and/or convert into a buildup of muscle tension. Therefore, regular massage can be used as a stress relief tool to ease tension and promote mindfulness.

There are various massage treatments to choose from. For example, a sports massage treatment benefits people who do high-intensity activities, such as running, where stress and physical issues are reported as common symptoms.

Deep tissue treatment focuses on releasing a buildup of tension around the whole body with medium to firm pressure. Aromatherapy treatments promote a soothing and relaxing atmosphere to encourage mental and physical wellbeing. Other treatments like pregnancy massage, lymphatic drainage, and hot stone promote wellbeing for a variety of needs.

There are other benefits of having a massage, so continue reading to find out how regularly having one can help both mind and body.

1) Stress Reduction

Stress relief

Stress is a physical reaction affecting how our bodies function and how we process emotions.

Small doses of stress can be beneficial to complete important tasks and to promote alertness in vital situations. However, long-term exposure to stress can lead to toxic levels, resulting in systemic health conditions.

When we experience stress, the body’s natural flight or fight response is activated through hormonal pathways. During this process, increased muscle tension occurs as a reflex reaction, which can result in muscle pains and restricted movement. These symptoms can impact our daily lives, i.e. our jobs and activities and quality of life.

So, how can a massage relieve stress and its effects?

Massage sessions often occur in a calming environment, helping the client to relax.

When people are relaxed, their breathing tends to slow, which has a positive knock-on effect. Slow breathing helps to calm the nervous system and lower heart rate.

Furthermore, the natural elements used during a massage, such as oils, contribute to relieving stress, soothing nerves, and promoting overall well-being.

A pre-event massage can prepare the body for stress, mentally and physically. On the other hand, a massage after a busy week can help dissipate stress, helping to reduce muscle tension and return the mind to a neutral state.

2) Anxiety Management

Anxiety Management

Anxiety differs from stress as it’s more persistent, and there may not be an obvious stressor. However, long periods of stress may trigger anxiety. Why is this?

Stress is the body’s reaction to a threat, whereas anxiety is the body’s reaction to the stress. Long bouts of stress increase cortisol and corticotropin, a boost of which leads to anxiety and mood disorders.

Many cultures, such as the Chinese culture, believe that a massage helps to reduce anxiety levels. This may be due to changes in brain activity and the rise of serotonin levels. Serotonin is a feel-good chemical that helps to stabilise emotions.

Additionally, a regular massage may help to increase confidence and a sense of empowerment, since pain and discomfort can be alleviated, reducing the likelihood of depression, which is a typical outcome of persistent anxiety and anxiety disorders.

3) Enhanced Mood

Enhanced Mood

The kneading technique within massages encourages the release of endorphins and dopamines, other feel-good chemicals and natural pain relievers, contributing to an overall boost in mood. Although endorphins can be stimulated through exercise and eating, a massage comes with several other benefits, such as reducing fatigue, which contributes to a boost in mood. We delve further into this later in the blog!

While massages increase the secretion of good chemicals, they also reduce hormones like cortisol and epinephrine. Cortisol is released after adrenaline (epinephrine) as part of the fight or flight response to a stressful situation. In addition to impacting the secretion and reduction of certain chemicals, massages increase the blood flow to the brain, helping to improve mental health.

4) Improved Sleep

Improved Sleep

As mentioned, regular massages can reduce fatigue, partly due to better sleep.

A lack of sleep can lead to negative moods, irritability, and sadness, impacting our everyday lives. In contrast, if we have longer and deeper sleep, we’ll respond to situations more positively and appropriately.

So, a regular massage may be the perfect remedy for people who suffer from sleep disorders, such as insomnia. It may improve their quality of sleep and provide relief from sleepless nights, helping to enhance their mental state during waking hours.

Serotonin, which we’ve mentioned is released during a massage, is a precursor to melatonin, a hormone that helps us fall asleep. More specifically, melatonin regulates our circadian rhythm (our physical, mental, and behavioural changes), facilitating a transition from wakefulness to sleep.

Massages also help to stabilise blood pressure, slow heart rate, and put muscles into a looser state.

5) Reduced Muscle Tension

Reduced muscle tension

Massage therapy can relieve muscle tension, which is often a result of physical activity, but, as mentioned, can also be caused by high stress and anxiety levels.

When muscles are tight, connective tissues may form in areas with poor circulation. Certain massage techniques can stretch and loosen these muscles and connective tissues, restoring the body’s ability to move more easily.

For example, a highly trained massage therapist will spend time working on specific pressure points that elicit pain or areas where movement feels restricted or tight.

Ultimately, a massage promotes blood flow, which is optimal for healing and pain management, and can influence a greater range of movement. These outcomes will reduce anxiety, sadness, frustration, or depression, freeing up the mind to focus on more positive things.

Furthermore, when we can move freely, we remain physically active, making us healthier and happier.

6) Mind-Body Connection

Massage

A massage can promote a state of meditation, allowing us to disconnect from the world and outside noise and, instead, focus on what’s happening inside. This can foster a stronger connection between our mind and body, which is essential for cognitive function, improving memory and problem-solving skills.

Simply put, our skin filters messages to our nervous system, so a happy body leads to a happy mind.

7) Release of Emotional Blockages

Reduced negative emotions

Negative emotion can lead to an increased sensation of muscle tightness and stress throughout the body. If muscles are tight because of a negative emotion stored there, this can block energy flow and restrict movement. The result can impact our mental health, i.e. causing symptoms related to anxiety and depression.

A deep tissue massage, in particular, can stimulate the release of emotional tension and help us let go of past traumas.

8) Boosted Cognitive Function

Increased brain activity

As mentioned, a massage can assist with cognitive function and clarity of thought. This is because an improvement in blood circulation, which occurs during a massage, is believed to enhance brain activity, including memory and efficient thinking.

9) Pain Management

Pain management

Massages can alleviate headaches and other common ailments, helping to positively impact mental health.

Massages can relieve pain by increasing blood circulation, interrupting the pain cycle.

Plus, muscles tend to tighten around painful areas, so, as mentioned, massages can assist with this, increasing the range of movement.

10) Self-Care and Self-Compassion

Self care and compassion

Scheduling a regular massage is an act of self-care and self-compassion, essential to enhance mental well-being.

Massages give our bodies time to unwind and recover. Furthermore, they are customisable to suit our individual needs.

Do You Require A Massage?

Now that you’re aware of the benefits of massages for mental health, you’re possibly wondering if you need one.

There are several signs you should look out for that may indicate you need a massage. These are as follows:

  • Physical tension
  • Mental stress
  • Limited range of motion
  • Physical pain
  • Circulation issues
  • Lack of sleep

The above is not an exhaustive list of signs that mean you should book a massage session. Remember, attending a massage session is an act of self-care, aligning your body with your mind and ensuring you’re physically and mentally prepared for the future, whether that’s meeting a deadline at work or training for a marathon.

Are you looking for East London massage treatments? Bodytonic offers massages in East London, including the best massages for mental health.