Addressing the Physiological and Energetic Challenges of Depression through Massage Therapy

Have the long dark days of winter got you feeling gloomy?  Is chronic pain affecting your ability to feel joy and a natural exuberance for life?  Did you know that massage therapy can have a truly significant and profound effect on the physiological and energetic challenges of depression; that it can release structural collapse and achieve physical changes that psychotherapy and medication cannot?

The link between the central nervous system and the endocrine system, known as the Stress Response System, monitors the body’s ability to respond to various levels of stress according to how well the hypothalamus, pituitary and adrenal glands communicate with each other to process and appropriately gauge the effects of a threat or stressor.  If one has an overreactive stress response, the tendency to develop depression increases.  After effects of a stress reaction in someone whose internal chemical messages and glandular orchestration are skewed out of whack linger longer than in someone whose stress response system is healthily functioning.  An abundance of healthy, nurturing touch works to improve the health of the stress response system.  According to Ruth Werner, writing in Massage Today (Vol. 3, Issue 8), in the piece “Depression and the Stress Response System,” the health of the stress response system is affected by many factors:

Studies on animals reveal one reason for a sluggish stress response: lack of tactile stimulation, or touch. Under stimulated animals have consistently slower, longer lasting and more frequent stress responses than animals that have been regularly handled. Consider what this means for the average under-touched person in our society. Touch deprivation and depression might especially affect those who live in isolation, away from the tactile and emotional stimulation of a partner or extended community. Ironically, depression tends to cause people to isolate themselves even further from their communities, which can exacerbate and elongate their problems.

“It is better to light a candle

than to curse the darkness.”

Action Plan for Spiritual Renewal
The following list comes from life coach Cheryl Richardson’s “Soul Makeover”.
(appeared in Body and Soul magazine’s  September 2006 issue):

Revisit your roots. Identify the practices and insights from your past spiritual experiences you still value. Would you like to recommit to community service, even though you no longer belong to a church group?  Might you decide to reinstitute a Sabbath day of rest and
reflection?  Take the gifts of your past and incorporate them into
your new spiritual vision.

Fire your old God.  If your relationship with a higher power no longer
feels authentic, create a new one. Consider giving some of those
notions you learned in childhood an overhaul as you chart a new
spiritual course.

Check in daily.  Keep a collection of your favorite spiritual books close
at hand for easy access–your glove compartment, bedside table, handbag,
office file drawer.  Read a paragraph or two every day to ensure you always
stay connected to your spirit.

Seek out a community. While some people are more comfortable keeping their
spiritual practices private, others find support in the company of like-minded
souls. If you fall in the latter camp, you might visit a new place of worship, ask friends
where they go for spiritual sustenance, or sign up for a lecture or workshop related to
spiritual topics.

Bring spirit to work. Set an intention that reflects how your work serves the world, and
begin each day with that thought. Establish simple daily practices, too, such as keeping
a candle lit on your desk, or playing soulful music in the office. You might even want
to start a weekly meditation group during lunch.

“If you wish to live in the light, you must step out of the shadows.”  –E.J. Michael

The Meaning of Life

“What is the meaning of life?” was asked of Alexander Papaderos, the renowned Greek
Taking his wallet out of his hip pocket, he fished into a billfold and brought out a very small
round mirror about the size of a quarter. And what he said went like this:
“When I was a small child, during the war, we were very poor and we lived in a remote
village. One day, on the road, I found the broken pieces of a mirror. A German motorcycle
had been wrecked in that place.
“I tried to find all the pieces and put them together, but it was not possible, so I kept
only the largest piece. This one. And by scratching it on a stone I made it round. I began to
play with it as a toy and became fascinated by the fact that I could reflect light into dark places
where the sun would never shine.
“I kept the little mirror, and as I went about my growing up, I would take it out in idle moments
and continue the challenge of the game. As I became a man, I grew to understand that this was not
just a child’s game but a metaphor for what I might do with my life. I came to understand that I am
not the light or the source of light. But light–truth, understanding, knowledge–is there,
and it will only shine in many dark places if I reflect it.”
—found in author Dan Menkin’s Transformation Through Bodywork: Using Touch
Therapies for Inner Peace
, pg. 34; in the chapter “Spirituality: A Path Toward Inner Peace”

“Your vision will become clear only when you look into your heart.

Who looks outside dreams.
Who looks inside awakens.”  –Carl Jung

Research studies show that massage therapy helps to lower muscle tension, increases breathing
volume, and lowers levels of cortisol.  For more information, see: Research Provides Evidence of Physiological Mechanism for Stress Reduction Resulting from Touch Massage and Tiffany Field, Maria Hernandez-Reif and Miguel Diego’s research, published in the International Journal of Neuroscience in 2005, Cortisol Decreases and Serotonin and Dopamine Increase Following Massage Therapy.

Finally, in addition to scheduling regular massage therapy appointments, consider following up on some of the suggestions from this very extensive emotional health toolkit page at

“What you feel rather than think is the strongest link you have to your best actions and intentions.”


~ by charl7 on January 24, 2012.

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