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If you suffer from depression the phrase “Massage for Depression” is almost like an oxymoron. Even if people tell you it will help you, you may really feel you just don’t deserve a massage. For those fortunate enough to have no idea what I’m talking about, let me try to describe depression for you:

It can feel like you are in quicksand. It holds you by the ankles, lets you move around just enough, but not too much. Try too much and it will suck you in further. Suffocating you. Draining you. Exhausting you. It can physically hurt. Ache. But you don’t have the flu. People say, “don’t be sad,” but it’s not sadness. It’s something else. This article from the National Institute of Mental Health describes is as an “empty mood.” Pessimism, guilt, fatigue, and difficulty sleeping are other symptoms of this disease. There are different types of depression and there are different factors that play a role: genetics, brain chemistry, and life events. If you know someone who may be affected by depression and want to learn more about it, here is a link to a free booklet from the National Institute of Mental Health: Depression: What you need to know.

So how can massage help? Massage can help to reduce the hormone cortisol, the stress hormone, and increase serotonin and dopamine levels (in some cases, patients who take antidepressants are given serotonin). If you like research, here is an article from the International Journal of Neuroscience: Cortisol decreases and serotonin increases following massage therapy. Yes, I do try to find you reliable information and not just regurgitate wikipedia whosawhatchit. Aside from the positive side effects of the chemistry, being in a safe place, with time to focus and relax – to get out of your own head – can be invaluable. Is one 60-minute treatment going to fix it? I wish I could say it would. Does it help? Yeah. Can you combine it with other things as part of your health care routine for longer lasting effects? Absolutely. People think of massage for the physical benefits: loosening, stretching, relaxing the muscle tissue. However the mental and emotional benefits are far-reaching. If your loved one is stuck in the quicksand and isn’t doing it for themselves, massage makes a nice gift or something to do as a get away together. Above all else, please remember: be kind to each other. Be kind to yourself.