Winter Massage

As the seasons change from our luxurious long summer, the grey skies descend upon us and the rain returns. Nationally, the reputation of the NW continues to include the sense of it being drearily depressing. For those of us who make this our home, we must find ways to defy this!

Massage therapy is a wonderful way to feel great through the rainy season. Not only does it enhance the bodies circulation, relieve pain and boost the immune system, but it also has a profound effect on the emotions. Studies have shown that people who routinely receive massage have a significant reduction in anxiety and depression. Anxiety and depression are essentially two sides of the same coin. They result from a variety of imbalances, many of which involve the neurotransmitters, dopamine, serotonin and cortisol.

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter in the central nervous system that is commonly associated with the pleasure system, providing feelings of enjoyment and reinforcement to motivate a person to perform certain activities. Decreased levels of dopamine in the body correlate with social anxiety, a lack of motivation to pursue one’s dreams, attention deficit disorder and depression.

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter in the central nervous system that is believed to play an important role in the regulation of mood, sleep, sexuality and appetite. Low levels of serotonin have been associated with several disorders, notably depression, migraine, bipolar disorder and anxiety. Serotonin is made from the amino acid tyrosine. Tyrosine activity is correlated with exposure to sunlight, so naturally, serotonin activity is lowest in the winter.

In a study published in the International Journal of Neuroscience, the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin were found to increase dramatically following massage therapy. Dopamine increased 31% while serotonin increased 28%. These were meausured through either saliva or urine assays. Additionally, cortisol levels were found to decrease at an average of 31%.

Cortisol is a hormone that comes from the adrenal gland and is involved in the sympathetic nervous system; our fight or flight reaction. When we are operating in overdrive, working too many hours and having too many demands on ourselves, there is a tendency to live in a sympathetic state with excess cortisol coursing through our systems. Additionally, experiencing major trauma or life stress can cause a prolonged surge in cortisol. If there is not enough recuperation time than an imbalance in cortisol levels can result. This can have many deleterious long-term affects.

The rainy season here in Portland can create an obstacle to wellness because of the decreased sun exposure. Additionally, our latitude is such that the angle of the sunlight we do get is insufficient for activating some metabolic processes. Therefore, it is essential that we take into consideration appropriate measures to accommodate the winter months in our routine self-care. You can schedule routine massage therapy at Nature Cures Clinic starting in January of 2007.

Other methods that can help you stay cheery this winter season include:

*Stay active! Put on that rain gear and get out into the fresh air.

*Use full spectrum lightbulbs in your home.

*Eat your vegetables.

*Socialize and enjoy the community events happening all the time in this wonderful city.

*Talk to your doctor about prescribed massage therapy, supplementing vitamins or herbs to assist with your energy and emotions this winter season.