I often tell people that massage has made me a happier person, that it has changed my life. And I mean it. How? I’ll tell you.
1. Massage Has a Slew of Health Benefits
I know the propensity to think of massage only as “pampering,” as a once-in-a-while treat you offer yourself—a birthday or Mother’s Day gift, for example. But massage is much, much more than pampering: It is one of the very best things you can do for your health. I won’t bore you with research studies here. There are many; in fact, I would encourage you to look them up. They’ll tell you that massage has the following major health benefits:
- It helps boost the immune system
- It increases circulation throughout the body
- It has proven extraordinarily beneficial in pain reduction
- It releases “feel-good” hormones
A Personal Story:
While I have experienced the aforementioned health benefits, massage’s impact on my health has been much more specific. When I was a child, I was diagnosed with migraines. Not headaches, but migraines. My parents did everything imaginable to combat them. I saw a slew of doctors, had more MRI’s than I can count, and even went to an eye doctor to determine if my eyesight could be a cause of these head-pounding, nausea-inducing spells. Nothing worked. Over the years, and into adulthood, I tried a variety (and by variety, I actually mean an entire pharmacy) of medications, changed eye-glass prescriptions like they were going out of style, and learned the symptoms of my migraines so well that I knew they were coming long before the ache pronounced itself. By my twenties, I was a migraine pro.
They came and went; sometimes, I’d go weeks without one, even months without one, but out of nowhere, they’d return with a vengeance. Not long before the birth of my first child, they were so bad I was averaging three a week. It affected my entire life. I burned through sick time at work; I hardly slept (I tend to get them at night); I worried about taking trips (what if I got a migraine in the plane!); and I stopped driving after dark for fear of car head- or tail-lights inducing a migraine (yes, even those set me off). It was nearly all-consuming.
I had heard, of course, that massage was helpful for migraines, and I’d even gotten a few—but they were few and far between, occasional treats I’d offer myself. Not surprisingly, those occasional massages never really helped my headaches. I realize now that was because they were sporadic. Finally, at wit’s end with migraines, I made massage a regular, twice-monthly occurrence. The improvement was stunning. I still get migraines, but their frequency has dropped dramatically. They no longer control my life.
Do I think massage is a miracle cure-all? Surely not. And should you consult your doctor for medical advice? Absolutely. Ignore my personal story if you like, but don’t ignore the facts. Evidence shows that massage is a healthy practice on a variety of levels.
2. Massage Helps Me Unwind
Back to my earlier comment about pampering: You’ll note that I simply stated massage was not only about pampering. The brilliant thing about massage is that it provides innumerable health benefits while inducing relaxation. How often are we offered this elusive combination? Not very often.
I think it’s safe to say that many modern attempts at health are as nerve-wracking as they are beneficial.
- Going to the doctor … Not relaxing
- Having medical tests taken … Not relaxing
- Going for a run … Perhaps energy-inducing (we can agree on this), but not exactly relaxing
- Eating well … Good for the body, and arguably even the spirit, but again, not necessarily relaxing
- Massage: RELAXING!
Relaxation has a number of benefits including the reduction of stress hormones. Reduced stress hormones can:
- Improve cognitive function
- Decrease headaches and migraines
- Reduce one’s propensity for stress-related illnesses
- Reduce abdominal fat
Let’s just go ahead and call this what it is … a win-win.
3. Massage is Mine Alone
I know what you’re thinking … isn’t massage being “mine” similar to my aforementioned point on massage’s ability to help me relax? Not really. I appreciate the ability massage has to induce relaxation, to offer me some rest, but in theory, I still have the ability to relax at home. Occasionally, for example, my husband and I sit down to catch up on our favorite television series (Homeland) with a glass of wine and maybe even a little desert. That’s relaxing, right? Yes, it is. But, here’s the thing … it isn’t really “me time” … and you know what … I think we all deserve some “me time” on occasion.
I don’t know what your life is like, but I’m willing to give you some insight into mine: I have two children, ages two and four. I work full time, and I’m also finishing graduate school. Sometimes, I forget to breathe. Massage is my weekly escape (yup, I jumped up from twice a month to once a week) from the world. I get to drop everything once a week and focus on myself—not my children, not my husband, not work, and not school. That time is more valuable than I can express.
You are important, too. So get out and take care of yourself, your health, and your sanity. Massage need not just be about pampering, although that aspect of it is certainly very nice. And it need not be unattainably expensive. There are lots of affordable options out there. I’ve told you the ways in which massage has improved my life … now, go out and see how it might improve yours.