Approximately 1 in 5 Americans experience mental illness each year, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. This accounts for the millions of Americans facing the reality of living with a mental health condition. With National Mental Illness Awareness Week taking place October 6-12, statistics like these and suitable solutions are brought to the forefront.
Holistic practices are an approachable way to address mental health and improve wellness. Massage therapy is one example proven to affect the body’s biochemistry in a positive way by lowering the stress hormone cortisol while increasing the release of feel-good hormones—endorphins—according to Michelle Ebbin, massage therapy expert and author of The Touch Remedy. “Massage is an excellent way to relieve stress, anxiety, tension, worry, and even depression,” says Ebbin, “and it can be easily incorporated into one’s wellness regimen at home and work.”
According to the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA), a review of more than a dozen studies has shown that massage therapy can help relieve depression and anxiety and promote better sleep. Ebbin recommends getting at least one massage a month to avoid buildup of stress and tension. “Even a brief respite of a 10 to 15 minute massage can make a world of difference in stress levels, and massage is a wonderful way to start the week because it improves mental clarity, focus and boosts energy levels,” she adds. Regularly scheduled massages can be combined with other holistic practices like yoga, meditation, and ongoing exercise to relax the body and mind even further.
If consistent massages are not an option, Ebbin suggests buying a self-massage tool. They can be purchased for less than $30 and alleviate tension from the neck, shoulder, and forearm muscles that work especially hard after hours of sitting at a computer during the workday. Another option would be to purchase small tune up balls for use at home, to roll out stiffness and tightness in the back, neck, shoulders, and legs. Ebbin recommends doing either or both of these activities five to 15 minutes daily.
For more information on massage and mental health, visit www.amtamassage.org/research.