Massage: Is “Feels Good” Enough?
For months, we’ve outlined ways in which massage and premium massage chairs are established heath aids for a broad range of aches, pains, conditions, syndromes, and illnesses. No surprise there. And most of us also enjoy massage and massage chairs purely as aesthetic experience. But is enjoyment a recommendation in itself?
Only Good While It Lasts?
Many experiences whose benefits were unknown, unappreciated, merely rumored or thought transitory are proving now to have lasting value. Many pleasures we didn’t value are proving to be beneficial in the long term. Having a pet, for instance.
Once thought of as functional creatures—good for hunting, herding, protection or as sources of amusement, pets are now valued as companions and service animals, providing emotional support and safety. Various studies by the National Institute of Health, the American Heart Association and universities also confirm that dog ownership can help you live a longer, healthier and more productive life.
The Joke Isn’t on You
Most of us enjoy a good laugh, but only recently has research begun to establish its biochemical benefits. In 2011, Scientific American reported that the long series of exhalations that accompany true laughter cause physical exhaustion of the abdominal muscles and, in turn, trigger endorphin release. Studies now suggest that benefits associated with exercise — improved cholesterol and blood pressure, decreased stress hormones, a strengthened immune system and a healthy appetite — can be attained with regular guffaws.
Then There’s Massage
In article after article cited here, massage and massage chair treatments are ranked with other modalities as important health benefits. As with laughter, endorphins released by physical activity, like exercise, or touch, like massage, make us feel good in the moment and raise our ability with ignore pain. Beyond that, they may help us retrain ourselves toward other healthy habits. Massage can help us get up from our desks, our technology, and take better care of ourselves. Simply put, a body that feels good, feels good to use. That’s no insignificant matter.
Dr. Rick Hanson, psychologist and Senior Fellow of the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley and New York Times best-selling author, has made extensive studies of the brain’s “negativity bias.” Frustration, worry, and other stressful experiences are more quickly wired into your nervous system than are positive thoughts and experiences. Using the science of neuroplasticity—the ability of our brains to “rewire” themselves— Dr. Hanson teaches powerful methods to help build inner strength and resilience, including mindfulness, positive visualization and self-compassion.
It is easy to see how massage therapy fits into this general scheme. Rewarding ourselves with a healing, soothing massage helps us rewire our thinking toward a more positive, healthy outlook. Not just a few minutes in a comfortable chair, a massage can be a pathway to a better life.
Welsh, Jennifer. “Why Laughter May Be the Best Pain Medicine.” Scientific American, 14 Sept. 2011, www.scientificamerican.com/article/why-laughter-may-be-the-best-pain-medicine/.
Staff, Live Science. “Laughter Affects Body Like Exercise.” LiveScience, Purch, 26 Apr. 2010, www.livescience.com/6338-laughter-affects-body-exercise.html.
Team, Cuteness. “Can Owning a Dog Increase Life Expectancy? | Cuteness.” Cuteness.com, Cuteness, 9 Feb. 2017, www.cuteness.com/blog/content/can-owning-a-dog-increase-life-expectancy.
Hanson, Rick. “The Foundations of Well-Being Online Program.” The Foundations of Well-Being, www.thefoundationsofwellbeing.com/.