You always knew that massage felt great and you had a sense of wellbeing afterwards. But research is now indicating how it does this by increasing the levels of happiness hormones in your body.
These “happiness hormones” are the four primary chemicals in your brain that affect happiness – dopamine, serotonin, endorphins and oxytocin. Massage is now known to activate and boost all of these 4 happiness hormones and to increase levels of happiness and wellbeing.
Dopamine is often referred to as the “feel-good” hormone. It is a neurotransmitter that is part of your brain’s reward system and it drives pleasure-seeking behaviour. It drives you to achieve goals and gives you a positive hit when you fall in love, get a compliment or complete a task. If you have low dopamine levels you may experience low energy, lack of motivation, procrastination or a lack of focus and enthusiasm. Studies published in 2005 in the International Journal of Neuroscience indicated that, after massage, dopamine levels were increased by an average of 31%. This increase in dopamine can help you to feel more energised, motivated, productive and focused.
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that regulates your mood and also your appetite and digestive system. It is also associated with learning and memory as well as sleep. Experts believe that low serotonin levels may contribute to depression and anxiety as well as low energy, negative thoughts, loneliness and food cravings. The above 2005 studies indicated that, after massage, serotonin levels showed an average increase of 28%. This serotonin increase can boost your mood and give you an overall sense of well-being and contentment.
The neurotransmitters known as endorphins are the body’s natural pain relievers. The pain relief effect released by endorphins has been shown to be even greater than the effects of morphine. Endorphins are usually produced by the body in response to stress or pain and they can also relieve symptoms of anxiety and depression. Low endorphin levels have been shown to contribute to depression, fibromyalgia and headaches. The Victorian State Government Better Health Channel published that “massage prompts the release of endorphins – the brain chemicals (neurotransmitters) that produce feelings of wellbeing. Levels of stress hormones, such as adrenalin, cortisol and norepinephrine, are also reduced.” The result of these increased endorphins is a feeling of deep relaxation and calm and even feelings of euphoria.
Oxytocin is often called the “love hormone”. It creates trust, bonding, intimacy and healthy relationships. It plays a role during childbirth, breast feeding and parent-child bonding. It has a calming effect and makes you feel relaxed and loving. Research is emerging that low oxytocin levels may contribute to reduced empathy, lower social functioning and depression. A European study published in Psychoneuroendocrinology has now shown that a massage produced by a massage device can increase oxytocin levels. In comparison to a controlled condition without massage, the massage was shown to elevate oxytocin levels and stimulate more empathy towards others. It has been shown that human touch is not necessary for massage to still produce the oxytocin enhancing effects.
This is great news for massage chair owners everywhere!