release

6 Easy Mood Boosters

1. Make a gratitude list.

“The most effective way I know of to shake a bad mood is to brainstorm everything possible that you’re grateful for and write it down,” says Amy Wood, PsyD, author of Life Your Way. She suggests starting with broad strokes, like being thankful the sun is shining or that you’re breathing. “You’ll find that once you get the ball rolling, more and more ideas will come to you. Studies actually show that it’s impossible to feel gratitude and unhappiness simultaneously. That’s why this strategy works so well, and so quickly!”

2. Practice mindfulness.

“If you’re in a slump, you may also be stuck ruminating about the past or worrying about the future. Both of these thoughts are nonproductive,” says Simon Rego, PsyD, director of Psychology Training at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx. Instead, he suggests practicing mindfulness, which involves being present in the moment without judgment. “Try taking five minutes and eating your meal in a mindful way, paying attention to how it looks, smells and tastes with each bite, before swallowing it. Or take a quick mindful walk, considering the sights, smells, sounds and temperature with each step.” By focusing on the present, you’re less likely to dwell on the outside circumstances that are making you unhappy.

3. Practice a random act of kindness.

According to Dr. Rego, doing nice things for other people will make you feel good about yourself. Try holding a door open for someone else, offering a compliment or smiling at a stranger. These acts of kindness lead to positive thinking about yourself, and usually garner a positive response, like “thank you,” which can easily put a smile on your face, he says.

4. Have A Laugh

“Set up a YouTube channel with your favorite comedy sketches and comedians,” suggests Cory Bank, PhD, founder of StompStressAway.com. “Have it saved so that if you’re in a bad mood you can take a three-minute break and infuse some humor into your day.” Belly laughter will make your endorphins kick in within minutes. Plus, he notes, “you’ll feel better when you take a short break from your day-to-day reality.”

5. Eat An Orange

According to celebrity trainer Harley Pasternak, foods packed with vitamin C, like citrus fruits, green peppers and broccoli, are proven to cheer you up. In fact, a study published in a 2010 edition of Nutrition found that vitamin C therapy can help improve the moods of patients who are hospitalized for long-term or critical care. Dr. Sams also stresses the importance of vitamin C (as well as other antioxidants, like vitamins A and E) when it comes to boosting your mood because it helps stabilize free radicals in the body, which are known to accelerate aging and increase the risk of heart disease and cancer. When these highly reactive atoms are neutralized, it prevents them from also damaging brain cells, resulting in better health and improved mood.

6. Just Breathe

Sure, we do this all day long, but breathing in a certain way has the power to relax us as well as lift us out of a slump. Dr. Sams is an advocate of diaphragmatic breathing. “Take a five-count breath in, and a five-count breath out. The goal is to manage your breath, instead of having your breath manage you.” When you breathe into your diaphragm as opposed to just your chest, which many of us do when we’re feeling stressed, you will absorb a lot more oxygen into your system. “Our brains thrive on oxygen—it’s very powerful in boosting your mood.”

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For people with chronic pain, massage therapy can bring real relief

WE’VE ALL EXPERIENCED PAIN at one time or another. But unless you live with chronic pain, it’s tough to understand how severely it can infringe on your quality of life.

Massage therapy is one of the many treatments available for chronic pain. Diana L. Thompson, a licensed massage practitioner and president of the Massage Therapy Foundation, has seen firsthand how massage therapy can help people with chronic pain.

She participated in a study of various treatments for lower-back pain, including massage therapy. “With massage therapy, we were able to see positive results after as few as eight massage sessions,” Thompson says. “And the relief continued for up to a year after the participants stopped receiving the massages.”

Another benefit of massage therapy, Thompson points out, is the education massage therapists can provide during a series of sessions. “We can help people retrain their thinking so they can establish a better relationship with their own body,” she explains. “Then they can make decisions about how to take care of themselves, such as knowing when it’s time for a massage, or to use an ice pack, or to do some stretching exercises or just take a break.”

Lower-back pain and neck pain are among the most common types of chronic pain, but massage therapy can be beneficial for many other issues (see “Helping Hands”). If you suffer from chronic pain, be sure to tell your massage therapist about your condition. Share as much information as you can about how the pain is affecting your life, including specific activities you’re having trouble with or avoiding because of pain.

“Really think about the results of massage in terms of your ability to participate more in your own life,” Thompson says. “We might not be able to get rid of the pain completely, but we can help you be much more functional and comfortable in your daily life.”

—By Amy Lynn Smith

 

Some Q & A

Massage Envy experts answer your questions

Q: How does receiving massage help reduce stress?

A: We all know that certain types of constant stress in our lives are not healthy. But did you know that recent evidence indicates the physical changes associated with stress may contribute to the leading causes of death – heart disease and cancer. In addition, stress can create and/or exacerbate many physical and emotional conditions such as chronic fatigue, digestive upset, headaches, back pain, high blood pressure and risk of stroke.

A recent study conducted by Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles recruited 53 healthy adults and assigned them to receive deep tissue, Swedish and light touch massage. Blood samples were taken immediately before the massage and up to an hour afterward. The researchers found that a single session of massage caused biological changes.

Volunteers showed significant decreases in levels of the stress hormone cortisol. They also had increases in white blood cells that are part of the immune system. Volunteers experienced greater increases in a hormone associated with contentment and bigger decreases in adrenal hormone, which stimulates the adrenal glands to release cortisol. While cortisol is an important and helpful part of the body’s response to stress, higher and prolonged levels of cortisol in the bloodstream, such as those associated with chronic stress, have been shown to have negative effects. What this study shows is that receiving massage actually activates the body on an internal level to respond and correct the physiological imbalance caused by our stressful lives.

– C.G. Funk, Licensed Massage Therapist and Vice President of Industry
Relations and Product Development for Massage Envy

Give the Gift of Relaxation this Valentine’s Day

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Swedish Massage

Usually, when people think of massage, the type of massage that they visualize is a Swedish massage. Developed in Stockholm several centuries ago, this form of bodywork has become the most common type of massage that is performed

The massage therapists at Massage Envy will rub the muscles with long gliding strokes in the same direction of blood flowing back to the heart to get the client’s body to relax. Firm kneading, percussion-like tapping, bending, stretching, and applying pressure with their hands and palms are a few other techniques used to calm the muscles of the body down. The use of lotion will not only reduce friction, but stimulate the skin as well.

The benefits of a Swedish massage includes an increase of oxygen in the blood, a decline in muscle toxins, better circulation and flexibility, and less muscle tension.

Trigger Point Therapy

Trigger points can often be misleading. This is because although a person may feel pain in a certain part of their body, the pain is actually coming from a tight area within the muscle tissue in another part of the body. For example, the pain may be in your back, but the source of the pain is in the neck area. Overuse or injury of muscles can create these trigger points in the body.

A trigger point massage is intended to loosen up the area that is causing the pain by applying and releasing pressure. The person receiving the massage participates by breathing deeply and identifies the location of the discomfort.

This massage gets rid of the toxins in the muscles and releases energizing endorphins. Just one treatment can cause a significant decline in the amount of pain.