The Role of Touch in Mental Health and Well-Being
A great deal of experiential information regarding the beneficial effects of massage therapy has been amassed over the centuries. Now we have research that shows that massage therapy is helpful in alleviating anxiety and depression. Levels of dopamine and serotonin are increased during and immediately following massage and levels of salivary and urinary cortisol are decreased. Heart rate decreases. The physical symptoms or manifestations in the body and its systems of anxiety and depression are improved by massage therapy (for example: stress, muscle tension, lethargy, pain, sleep disturbances and digestive difficulties). The value of an increase in the sense of well-being, self-confidence and connection with one’s own body cannot be overstated.
When people begin to re-connect with their bodies through the positive feelings engendered by touch, important changes happen. Rather than the body being simply the container, or even the apparent origin of pain or negative feelings, it becomes an ally in “reading” themselves. Noticing and paying attention to physical responses helps people to learn more about what stresses or triggers them and what soothes them. This can become an important tool for mental health and wellness.