- If you can dream it, you can do it. Walt Disney
Have a Massage
Research suggests that getting massaged can actually benefit your health.
It's basically a painkiller — especially when your masseur gets his hands on your bare skin. In one study, when neuroscientists compared brain activity of people undergoing different touch-treatments (e.g., with and without rubber gloves, with and without movement, etc.), bare-handed massages activated the same part of the brain that is activated by opioid painkillers such as codeine.
It boosts your immunity. Massage doesn't just get the blood flowing – it actually changes your blood's composition for the better. After a 45-minute Swedish massage (a technique that involves long strokes, deep kneading, and circular movements to push blood toward the heart), recipients had significantly higher levels of blood proteins that play a major role in protecting the body from tumors, viral infections, and other pathogens, compared to blood samples taken from a control group, according to a study published in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.
It reduces stress. Before a date, interview, or game, it can alleviate the tension in your muscles and your mind, says Dolvett Quince, the lead trainer on NBC's The Biggest Loser and a massage and wellness consultant for Brookstone. An overwhelming amount of evidence suggests that massage can actually slash most physiological markers of stress. One Korean study found that patients who got hand massages five minutes before cataract surgery had significantly lower heart rates, blood pressure, and levels of the stress hormone cortisol than those who went into surgery without any kind of rubdown.
It fends off headaches. Lots of things can trigger a headache, but many stem from tension in the neck that restricts blood flow to the brain. Oftentimes, a neck massage can boost blood flow and alleviate the pain, Walsh says. Also, research (including one four-week study in which participants got two 30-minute massages per week) suggests that massage also reduces frequency and severity among chronic headache suffers.
It may help put you to sleep. No more counting sheep. (As if anyone ever does that.) One small study found that a 20-minute facial massage can reduce blood pressure and increase sleepiness pretty much immediately. Researchers also tested foot massage: The treatments reduced blood pressure, just not as much as facial massage — a fact you can easily omit the next time you ask your partner for a late-night foot rub.
It improves your circulation to help you relax. Your body constantly pumps blood to and from the heart to carry oxygen to your tissues and sweep away cellular waste products. It's tough work. According to Walsh, Swedish massage is designed to push blood from your limbs toward your heart to make things a little easier. This gives your muscles a chance to relax, so you feel refreshed when your massage is over — kind of like you just took a nap. (But obviously better.)
Traditional Thai massage is an ancient healing system that combines broad and targeted acupressure, stimulation and manipulation of energy lines called sen, and assisted yoga postures. Treatment effects are enhanced when the patient is fully relaxed and breathing deeply. This traditional healing practice, called nuad or nuad boran in the Thai language, stands in sharp contrast to western massage therapies.
Traditional Thai massage rarely uses oils or lotions, and the recipient remains clothed during a treatment. There is constant body contact between the practitioner and client, but rather than rubbing on muscles, the body is compressed, pulled, stretched and rocked in order to clear energy blockages and relieve tension. The practitioner uses thumbs, palms, forearms, elbows, knees and feet to create a dance of movement on the body of the recipient. In this process, joints are opened, muscles and tendons are stretched, internal organs are toned, and energy is balanced. The overall effect is one of deep relaxation, rejuvenation, and physical and mental well being.