Happy In The Skin You’re In? Improving Body Image With Regular Massage

Massage has several clinically proven mental and physical health benefits, but one that most people aren’t aware of is how massage can improve body image. Our culture is full of toxic influences with regards to the way we see our bodies. Some of these sources include:

People of every sex, size and shape can suffer from poor body image.
People of every sex, size and shape can suffer from poor body image.
  • Media Ideals: While the media is often called out collectively for promoting impossible ideals for the human shape, especially for women, there’s no conspiracy at work here. Everyone likes to see a pretty face or body, and in our technological age, media outlets are using ever-more sensational and exploitative tactics to grab a bit of our over-taxed attention spans. Shouting about the unfairness of media ideals doesn’t seem to be moving the needle in terms of changing the culture, but as consumers we can remember that not all media reflects what’s realistic or healthy.
  • Family Culture: Unfortunately, insecurity about body image is not only toxic, it can be contagious. Well-meaning parents or other family members may have created insecurity or a poor sense of self-image with critical comments or by modeling body-hating behaviors and self-talk.
  • Kids Are Cruel: If something about your appearance made you stand out as a child, chances are someone teased you about it in school. Perhaps that teasing turned into a pattern of bullying, shaming, and shunning. Sure, “sticks and stones,” but those toxic feelings can easily follow us into adulthood.
  • Injury or Illness: Suffering trauma or serious illness can cause unwanted body changes that can’t be helped. These changes can have a lasting impact, even long after bones have mended and tissues have healed.
  • Childbirth: While having a baby can be a happy event, the dramatic and permanent changes that take place in a woman’s body after childbirth can definitely have an impact on self-image.

All these factors can combine and make the task of improving our own body image seem daunting, if not impossible. But we weren’t born with shame for our bodies. It was taught or conditioned in us in small stages. Unlearning that perspective can take time.

A plan of action
The good news is that body image is not a fixed state of mind. Your body image has changed before and it can change again–this time for the better.

A strategy to improve body image is more likely to be successful if it involves several methods to change your thought patterns. These might include talk therapy with a psychologist or licensed family therapist, a program of exercise, and regular massage treatment.

That’s right–massage
Studies have shown that massage has benefits for body image one might not expect. Upon closer examination, though, massage’s benefits regarding body image make perfect sense.

The power of touchCouple holding hands toward the sun
Our success as a species can be attributed to our ability to work together to solve the problems of survival. In short, we need each other whether we like it or not. We’re social creatures by nature.

Lack of touch and affection in early childhood development has been shown to cause irreversible psychological harm. Solitary confinement has been shown to be debilitating and damaging to mental health, even for those confined for relatively short periods of time.

Touch is literally the most tangible form of love and approval we can experience. When you’re touched with care by a fellow human being, the most primal parts of you are reassured that everything will be fine, that you’ll survive, that you deserve to survive, and that life will continue.

When you’re regularly touched in a therapeutic setting like massage, your body and mind get all those signals and more. Your mind/body connection is strengthened. Regular massage can nourish these feelings and help them become a natural part of your daily thinking process.

Naked with strangers
Massage as a form of self-care and as a way of enhancing wellness has been studied and proven for years, but many aren’t yet aware of it. Those coming in for the first time may be fighting feelings of anxiety, especially for those with body image issues. After all, massage is being naked (although strategically covered with a sheet) in a room with someone you’ve just met. Although the kind of massage we practice at GLM is not sexual in any way, touch therapy can be an intimate experience. Some clients experience an emotional release on the table as tension is eased throughout the body.

Further, some clients are afraid their bodies are being judged or evaluated when they come in for a session.

This isn’t so.

Massage therapists are trained to have a professional and caring mind-set when working with their clients. Our therapists don’t see a lump of biological imperfection, disesase or illness, or a collection of unhealthy habits: they see a whole person with fears, desires, needs, flaws, and virtues, all in one. We see each person as inherently valuable and wholly unique.

You should feel comfortable with your practitioner so that you can keep an open dialog with them over what is working for you and what isn’t. While our practitioners are trained professionals, they need to hear from you to know how your experience could be improved.

Wellness from the inside out
We want all our clients to be as healthy as possible, both inside and out. While external solutions like cosmetic surgery, hiring a personal trainer, improving your eating habits, and other strategies may help your body image to some extent, looks aren’t everything.

Health is one thing. How you see yourself is something else. There’s only so much that a personal trainer and plastic surgery can accomplish. A positive self-image that lasts comes from the inside out. Strengthening your mind/body connection through regular massage can be key in helping you rebuild a positive body image and loving the skin you’re in.

As with everything on this blog, none of this information should be construed as medical advice or care. The employees of The Good Life Massage, including the writers of this blog, are not medical doctors. Consult with your physician before making any changes to improve your health.

Tom Gunn is the marketing director and official blogger at The Good Life Massage. You can follow him on Twitter @goodliferenton.

Tom Gunn is the marketing director and official blogger at The Good Life Massage. You can follow him on Twitter @goodliferenton.

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