Massage The Blues Away
Winter brings colder weather, shorter days and longer nights, reduced sunlight, and that feeling of wanting to rug up and eat lots of sweet, carb-loaded foods. It is also a time for the ‘Winter Blues’, when we feel a bit down, low in energy and for some people depression can pay a visit too. The Winter Blues can be hard to deal with, but massage can help to alleviate them by lowering stress levels and releasing mood elevators. It can also aid in regulating blood sugar levels, promoting immune system activity, and even in changing a person’s brainwaves to increase relaxation and positive mood.
Reduced light levels and shorter days over winter cause an increase of melatonin in the brain which may cause feelings of lethargy and depression. Melatonin is a sleep hormone which switches our bodies into ‘sleep mode’. Light is the trigger which causes the production of melatonin to stop, causing us to wake up. Less light means more melatonin which means more drowsiness and sleepiness.
Massage has a calming effect by stimulating the parasympathetic system, lowering the amount of stress hormones such as cortisol, adrenaline and vasopressin. It can also increase the production of endorphins, which are natural painkillers and mood elevators. The reduction of stress hormones and increase of endorphins helps to enhance the feeling of well-being, which aids in countering feelings of depression.
Another way that massage helps to counter depression is by regulating blood sugar levels. Massage increases circulation which helps the uptake of insulin into cells, aiding in stabilizing blood sugar levels. Blood sugar that is not well-regulated can lead to mood swings which may contribute to depression. Winter is often a time when we crave comfort foods high in sugars and fats which can lead to high blood sugar levels and mood swings due to variations in blood sugar regulation.
Elevated blood sugar can also contribute to a thickening of connective tissue and muscle tissue which may present as a stiffness in the muscles, tendons and ligaments. It may also present as a decreased range of motion in the joints. This stiffness can be interpreted as sluggishness and can contribute to those feelings of lethargy common with depression and the Winter Blues. Having a massage on a regular basis can help to reduce mood swings and the effects brought on by high blood sugar levels.
Winter is often a time for coughs, colds and an assortment of viruses that take advantage of the more sedentary life-style that many of us find ourselves confined to in the cold season. Massage can actually increase the activity of the immune system by causing an increase in the production of white blood cells, the first line of defense for the immune system. An active immune system means less likelihood of being sick, which means less time spent in bed feeling down which contributes to feelings of depression and Winter Blues.
Massage has even been shown to change the brain waves of people both during massage and for a moderate time afterwards. A massage using medium pressure actually decreases alpha and beta waves, whilst increasing delta waves with a frontal delta waves being asymmetrically greater on the left than the right. The overall result of these changes in brain waves is an increase in physical and mental relaxation as well as an increase in positive mood.
With such positive effects on the mind and body, from regulating blood-sugar levels to mediating stress hormone levels and encouraging endorphin production, from increasing immune system activity to moderating brain waves to induce relaxation and positive mood, massage is a great way to combat depression and help beat the Winter Blues.