Mental Health Benefits of Massage Therapy: Where Mind & Body Meet

We know how to take care of our bodies, and most of us do it quite well, but even then one aspect of our health often gets left behind merely because it’s not physical – mental health.

Frankly, it’s about time that we stopped thinking about massage as nothing more than an indulgence and start looking at the bigger picture:

Massage therapy is incredibly powerful – you may think you’re treating the body, but your mind experiences significant benefits as well.

That’s why today we’ll skip the obvious – your body – and take a look at the less-known topic of mental health benefits of massage therapy.

Establishing a Mind-Body Connection

It may not always be evident to you but your mind and body are connected and nurturing this connection has a profound impact on your overall health and well-being.

Unfortunately, our fast-paced modern-day lifestyle often doesn’t allow us to stop and take a moment to acknowledge that connection, let alone strengthen it:

It’s no wonder most of us are walking around with pains and aches that go way deeper than the physical aspect of our beings. 

Massage therapy can be genuinely beneficial here in a sense that it gives you time to listen to what your body’s telling you. To pay attention to what you’re experiencing on a physical level and how it affects your emotional state and explore the bond between the body and the mind.

Neurochemical Changes That Extend Beyond the Physical

Have you seen the statistics lately? It seems like depression is the most common mental illness among the U.S. adults these days, and the leading cause of disability worldwide. If that’s not alarming, I don’t know what is.

Now, here’s where massage therapy comes in:

Although you’re used to thinking about it as something experienced on a physical level, as it turns out, it affects your body on a much deeper level, going beyond your skin’s surface, and causing profound neurochemical changes that ultimately lead to an increased sense of well-being.

In fact, following massage therapy, there’s a noticeable increase in both dopamine and serotonin levels – and when I say “noticeable” I mean by up to a third on average. For this reason alone, massage therapy can be vital in decreasing symptoms of depression as well as anxiety.

Massage Therapy Can Be a Safe Zone for the Anxious

If you’re dealing with anxiety, having an hour alone with your thoughts might sound like the least relaxing scenario in the world – but trust me, massage therapy can teach your body to relax.

That way, when the next wave of negative thoughts hits and triggers your fight-or-flight response, your body will know what exactly what to do to calm itself down.

You’ll Finally Catch Some Z’s

Falling into a vicious insomnia cycle – losing sleep, getting frustrated over losing sleep, and then losing some more sleep because of that – can take a severe toll on both your body and your mind.

And while we tend to think of massage therapy as one of those living-in-the-moment experiences, the truth is its benefits can extend over to your bedroom by lulling you into a deep state of relaxation and calmness.

If you don’t trust me, trust the research – massage therapy can do wonders for your stress levels and serotonin production, two factors that could, in fact, help you fight insomnia.

The Importance of Human Touch

We think of ourselves as strong, independent individuals, but let’s not forget that humans are social creatures that benefit from skin-to-skin contact in more ways than one:
Sure, getting a massage is a pleasurable sensory experience, but more importantly, it affects our sense of well-being and induces the release of oxytocin, the hormone of love and bonding.

And no, increased oxytocin production doesn’t mean you’ll fall in love with your therapist – it will merely leave you with a sense of trust, belonging, enhanced sociability, and optimism, all of which can help alleviate underlying mental health issues.

What’s The Best Massage Therapy for Your Mental Health?

All forms of massage therapy offer unique benefits – and anything is still better than nothing – but if you’re looking to get the most out of it mental health-wise, you’re better off opting for one of the following three:

1. Swedish Massage

Using long, gentle strokes, combined with kneading, stretching, tapping, and circular motions, Swedish massage is known to be a profoundly relaxing experience that improves your circulation and eases tension.

Because of that, it is believed to offer several mental health benefits and improve mindfulness.

2. Hot Stone Massage

The idea behind this type of massage is to use heat and pressure, as provided by the stones, on the body’s energy centers, to achieve a deeper state of relaxation, calmness, as well as improved blood flow which regulates hormone levels, relieves stress, and has an overall soothing effect.

As such, hot stone massage is well-suited for treating depression, anxiety and insomnia.

3. Shiatsu

By using firm finger pressure on the body’s acupressure meridians, Shiatsu massage improves energy flow throughout the body, releases built-up negative energy, and restores balance to your body and your mind.

Make Massage Therapy A Part of Your Mental Health Treatment

With all that’s been said about the mental health benefits of massage therapy, including this practice – in whatever form you choose – into your mental health treatment can have a powerful impact on your overall well-being, helping you heal and grow as a person.

Remember this the next time you’re sitting there, thinking whether or not you should book a massage, or invest in a neck and shoulder massager: By treating the body, you’ll heal the mind, as well.


Guest Post written by Stewart Higgins, who is a massage expert, with extensive experience in the field, running a massage therapy center for the last two years.

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