"Every child, no matter the age, should be massaged at bedtime on a regular basis.” So says Tiffany Field, PhD, of the Touch Research Institute (TRI) in Miami, Florida. Field and her associates at TRI have worked diligently over the past decade to prove the benefits of massage for children. But this is not a new concept. Infant massage has long been a common practice in many cultures. Many indigenous tribes use some form of bodywork to soothe, relax, and heal their little ones, sometimes including scented oils and herbal remedies as part of the experience.
There is a growing body of research pertaining to the effects of various forms of foot massage—including reflexology—on anxiety, depression, immune system response, nausea, pain, and stress. A general review of the literature between the years 1999–2007 found that foot work is demonstrating significant outcomes within a broad spectrum of populations, from postsurgical patients to people with cancer to middle-aged women to hospitalized patients.1
On the surface, it may seem that the best part of a massage is the wonderful feeling of relaxation and being touched, but the benefits are more than just skin deep. For almost two decades, researchers at the Touch Research Institute (TRI) at the University of Miami School of Medicine have documented the specific physiological and psychological changes brought about by massage therapy.
Generalized Anxiety Relief
Winding down after a demanding day often means turning on the television, pouring a drink, or breaking into a pint of ice cream. A more productive, healthy way to chase away tension, anxiety, and the daily blahs is meditation. Here’s a meditation designed to help you quiet mind chatter, focus inward, and explore the limitless realm of your heart and soul.
Eons ago, back when evading predators and foraging for food were humankind’s main activities, stress was essential to survival. The body’s fight-or-flight response to stress in the face of danger set off a chain reaction of physiological changes, priming the body for action and increasing the likelihood of escaping physical harm.
What if there was a single pill you could take to reduce blood pressure, ease anxiety, improve concentration, and make you happier — all with no side effects? Chances are, everyone would be clamoring for it. While not in pill form, mindfulness meditation — the act of sitting quietly for 20 to 30 minutes once or twice a day and emptying your mind — appears to initiate these significant results.
That pain in your jawbone. The ache in your back. Or is it a persistent twinge between your shoulders? Do you pay attention to what your body is telling you? Or do you turn a deaf ear?
“When you suffer an attack of nerves you’re being attacked by the nervous system. What chance has a man got against a system?” —Russell Hoban
I am lying face down on a massage table. My ears are tightly covered, so that I’m deep inside a loud silence of rushing blood and muffled room tones. Explosions of pressure twang against the back of my skull and reverberate through my brain and being, over and over. I feel at first shaken apart, and then, oddly enough, powerfully relaxed — safe.