Got Anxiety? Depressed? The Mind-Body Connection and How Massage Therapy Can HelpJohn Stamoulos
The Cartesian concepts of duality don’t work anymore. The mind-body connection is irrefutable ~ Dr. Kelly Brogan
When you feel sadness, your body reacts with tears. When you feel shame, your face flushes with embarrassment. The reverse is also true. How your physical behavior affects your mood. What you eat, your levels of exercise, how much sleep you get and even how you sit changes your mood and attitude. (Consider how being asked to ‘sit up straight’ is about improving our focus and attention.)
These two simple examples of the mind-body connection are expanded in numerous scientific studies that also identify ‘how’ of our thoughts, emotions, beliefs and attitudes having a direct effect on our physiology and vice versa.
From a scientific perspective, the connection between mind and body occurs because all aspects of our physical and mental/emotional existence are in constant communication using the same chemical material within our bodies. The landmark research of Dr. Candace Pert, renowned neuroscientist, pharmacologist and author of Molecules of Emotion, uncovered that neuropeptides set up a bi-directional communication loop that not only runs from the brain to the entire body but also allows the body to flow information to the brain. Additionally, such communication is not a rigid process but changes in form and vibration in response to a need. This need is communicated through a complex network of literally trillions of messages sent in the language of chemicals and energy that flood the cells and glands of the endocrine, immune and neurochemical systems. Within this vast network of chemicals and energy moving within the body, our emotions, thoughts, beliefs and attitudes intersect with the physical body. In Dr. Pert’s findings, there is not just a body or just a mind but a ‘bodymind ‘ where our physical body stores the chemical imprint of emotions and is also structurally changed by those imprinted emotions.
The BodyMind at Work
Stress is known to cause any number of physiological symptoms that impact health. When the mind is stressed, the body responds by producing extra amounts of the ‘fight or flight’ hormone, cortisol. Elevated amounts of cortisol can raise the potential for anxiety and depression. It can also cause the immune system to be suppressed, can increase blood pressure, impede memory, and can influence weight gain. The bodymind responses to stress can become locked in a complicated feedback loop that is self perpetuating and difficult to exit. One effective strategy has been found in massage therapy.
Massage Therapy and the ‘BodyMind’
Numerous articles and studies have been conducted to look at the effect of massage therapy on the stress-cortisol imbalance. This article published in Psychology Today supports the view that massage therapy can be the intervention needed to restore equilibrium and break the locked-in feedback loop created through stress. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/integrative-mental-health-care/201810/massage-therapy-anxiety-and-stress
Massage therapy is so effective because it:
- involves the sensory efficacy of touch that generates the production of oxytocin, the love/bonding hormone.
- brings presence to the relationship with the physical body that has become dysfunctional due to physiological or emotional conditions that block body awareness…some examples include, body trauma, eating disorders, and even psychiatric issues such as schizophrenia (ref: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8511959/ )
- increases presence of neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine levels in the brain that help regulate and decrease depression and anxiety (ref: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=20361919
So, even as you are enjoying the physical benefits of therapeutic massage, know that the emotional kinks and knots are being smoothed and realigned as well. The proof is in how you feel before and after a massage. Take note and enjoy the benefits!