Massages and cuddles fight disease
I love a cuddle, like really love a cuddle. I didn’t really think anything of it until my husband started teasing me about the amounts of cuddles I request on a regular (tri-daily) basis. I must have subconsciously developed it from my mum, who is always getting in a cuddle when I see her.
The hormone Oxytocin caught my eye a few years back as it is adoringly known as the ‘cuddle’ hormone. When looking into it further I realised the release of oxytocin offers a whole host of benefits such as enhanced digestion, facilitates wound healing, increases trust and reduces anxiety.
The power of touch is incredibly strong and nurturing. It is as vital for human survival as food is. Wow.
In a study with monkeys they found that if they get too touch deprived they lash out, aggression increases and they can kill each other. However the monkeys that were touched regularly were less aggressive and live harmoniously together.
In humans, it is no different. Infants, when deprived of touch, even if properly nutritionally nourished, will not thrive. One of the major reasons elderly people become depressed is because not only do they feel isolated due to a lack of social interaction but it is also because of the lack of touch.
I recently underwent a little surgical procedure with no anaesthetic which was really uncomfortable and scary, the lovely nurse came over in theatre to ask if I was OK, I grabbed her hand and she grabbed mine and put her other hand on top rubbing it gently, and it was the most comforting thing ever and I instantly felt better and my anxiety dropped.
This power of touch got me thinking about people who don’t receive cuddles or touch regularly and those who need it the most- those under a lot of stress, those who work remotely, those working in isolated jobs, those going through a relationship break up, those who live on their own… One solution to contribute to that feeling of wellbeing? Massage.
Occasionally we might ‘treat’ ourselves or others to massages for special occasions, perhaps for a birthday and we view it is an indulgence. The benefits of massage are endless and since the western world is constantly in flight or fight mode I think it is about time we ought to consider how we can fit massage into our integrated wellness plan.
On the surface people think massages are good for relaxation and muscle soreness and they are not wrong, but it is so much more than that.
Multiple studies have gone on to demonstrate that whatever age, gender or physical condition we are in, there is always a shift in mood to the positive end of the spectrum after massage.
How does this happen? When you are being massaged, your brain waves shift from the right frontal region to the left frontal region which shifts your mood to a happy state.
As we are being massaged our cortisol (stress hormone) levels drop which allows your natural killer cells (or immune cells) to survive therefore boosting your immune system (natural killer cells are responsible for killing bacterial cells, viral cells and cancer cells)
Massage makes you happy and being happy helps you sleep. If you don’t get enough deep sleep a hormone is released called substance P and that causes pain so then it becomes a vicious cycle because more pain will increase your difficulty in sleeping.
Anxiety and stress
Massage boosts your serotonin levels, the body’s natural anti-pain and anti-depressant hormone. This in turn reduces anxiety and stress. There are proven improvements in alertness and mental focus.
Next time you consider a massage, remember that it provides an opportunity for the therapist to communicate with your entire nervous system, scientifically calming your neural pathways.
Investing in your wellbeing is priceless.