In last week’s column I spoke of Seasonal Affective Disorder, also known as SAD, a condition that pushes a lot of people into a depression type state, mostly during the cold months where sunlight is limited. Studies have shown that massage can help with these feelings of depression. This week let’s shed light on how the body reacts to massage during this depressive state.
First off, massage promotes the release of serotonin, dopamine, and oxytocin. Serotonin and dopamine are neurotransmitters that promote a sense of well being and contentment. Serotonin controls mood, hunger, and sleep. Dopamine (makes you feel good) works as the reward system in the brain and oxytocin produces the ‘love’ feeling (the temporary warm and fuzzy feeling we get when dating).
Massage makes us feel relaxed and sleepy (serotonin) on the massage table. We tend to feel better and happier after we’ve had our massage (dopamine) and with gentle, spa-type massage, we get that warm and fuzzy feeling when getting pampered and feeling taken care of (oxytocin).
The feelings we get with massage help counter those associated with SAD, depression, and anxiety. A massage might be the catalyst to keeping those feelings at bay. Once you feel the effects of massage, then you might be encouraged to continue with other positive behaviors such as exercise, spending time with friends, meditating or laughing. All are activities that can help get those neurotransmitters producing the mood controlling, happy, calming feelings that encourage you when the days are short, dark, and you are feeling cranky.