“Breathing in, I calm my body. Breathing out, I smile. Dwelling in the present moment, I know this is a wonderful moment.” - Thich Nhat Hahn
I start every bodywork session with by breathing, in sync with my receiver. I find that the simple act of conscious breathing being aware of in breaths and out breaths sets immediately the process of allowing oneself to let go of stress and begin to enter a state of relaxation. Truthfully, though I actually start every session with a speech! Not really a speech so much as a welcoming greeting, wherein I say "Welcome. Inside this space, is like a sanctuary. The phone gets turned off, and on the other side of that door - is your obligations; the bills, the job, the kids, the illness, the whatever that calls to you, obligates you or otherwise demands your attention or creates your worries. Inside, here in this space is just the now. Bodywork with me starts with and is a form of meditation.
Much is made of the capabilities of alternative therapies, but much of the evidence to support massage's meditation’s effectiveness in promoting mental or physical health isn’t quite up to snuff. Why? Many studies don’t include a good control treatment.
But when researchers from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD sifted through nearly 19,000 studies, they found 47 trials that addressed those issues and met their criteria for well-designed studies. Their findings, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, suggest that mindfulness meditation can help ease psychological stresses like anxiety, depression, and pain.
Dr. Elizabeth Hoge, a psychiatrist at the Center for Anxiety and Traumatic Stress Disorders at Massachusetts General Hospital and an assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, says that mindfulness meditation makes perfect sense for treating anxiety. “People with anxiety have a problem dealing with distracting thoughts that have too much power,” she explains. “They can’t distinguish between a problem-solving thought and a nagging worry that has no benefit.”
“If you have unproductive worries,” says Dr. Hoge, you can train yourself to experience those thoughts completely differently. “You might think ‘I’m late, I might lose my job if I don’t get there on time, and it will be a disaster!’ Mindfulness teaches you to recognize, ‘Oh, there’s that thought again. I’ve been here before. But it’s just that—a thought, and not a part of my core self,'” says Dr. Hoge.
One of her recent studies (which was included in the JAMA Internal Medicine review) found that a mindfulness-based stress reduction program helped quell anxiety symptoms in people with generalized anxiety disorder, a condition marked by hard-to-control worries, poor sleep, and irritability. People in the control group—who also improved, but not as much as those in the meditation group—were taught general stress management techniques. All the participants received similar amounts of time, attention, and group interaction.
Positive Emotions Lead to Better Health: New research suggests that meditation, massage or any other mood-enhancing activity can serve as a nutrient for the human body.
In recent years have psychologists begun to appreciate the benefits of happiness and positive emotion — benefits that include everything from enhanced creativity to improved immune-system function. Dr. Barbara Fredrickson at the University of North Carolina, a leader in the field of positive psychology, posed the question, “What good are positive emotions?” and came up with the following possibilities.
Happiness broadens your focus and expands your thinking Positive emotions — curiosity, love, joy, contentment, wonder, excitement — expand your focus of attention. When you’re angry, your focus narrows to the source of your frustration and the object of your wrath. Your mind is like a heat-seeking missile, bent on destruction.
Contrast this with what happens when you get excited about something — your mind opens up and there’s a free flow of ideas and intellectual possibility. Curiosity abounds. This is precisely why passion is so essential to artistic endeavors. This is also why you need a high positivity ratio in the workplace if you want a high rate of productivity and a healthy bottom line.
When Psychologist Jon Kabat-Zinn and others studied the brain activity that accompanies this type of meditation, they found that it was the left frontal lobe of the brain that was literally turned on — the part that scientists refer to as the “happy brain.”
Positive and negative emotions can’t exist at the same moment in time. Embracing one negates the other.
Studies on touch have shown that something as simple as receiving a light touch hand from a compassionate friend or the act of petting your favorite animal can lower your blood pressure — so you can imagine the positive impact of the sustained and focused touch of massage - and, touch requires no prescription, nor has any negative side-effects.
The next time you find yourself feeling negative — upset, angry, sad, or worried — try taking an hour or so for massage and see what happens — it may provide just the escape you need from those negative emotions.
I write about things that I myself need to be mindful of. ways in which I would like to improve. It is not from the perspective of preaching - but rather writing helps me work out what I myself need to do - we are all in this together.