One of the many benefits of massage therapy is its ability to lessen feelings of depression. When someone is depressed, their brain either inefficiently utilizes or produces less of the naturally occurring hormones serotonin, dopamine and endorphins. These hormones are responsible for the transmission of messages along neural pathways and are the brain chemicals that help people “feel good.” Prescription antidepressants affect the levels of these hormones. However, using massage to treat depression is a safer alternative and one without the side effects or contraindications of pills or capsules.
The right side of the brain is more active during periods of sadness while the left side of the frontal lobe is more active when someone is feeling happy or joyful. Massage therapy stimulates activity in the left side of the brain, thereby increasing feelings of well-being and happiness and acts as an antidepressant.
The efficacy of massage therapy as a powerful antidepressant has been shown in clinical studies. Massage is known to release both serotonin and endorphins from the brain into the body. Although the exact mechanism for this activity is under study, studies show that therapeutic body massage increases serotonin levels by about 28 percent and dopamine levels by approximately 31 percent.