The Wellness-Mindfulness Connection

The Wellness - Mindfulness Connection

How are you?

No, really, how are you? Do you really have the information to answer that question? Maybe this is a question you should be asking yourself more often. Anyone experienced in meditation will tell you–answering that question thoroughly can be the quest of a lifetime, and takes more effort than you might think.

We live in a distracted time, so much so that most of us have no idea how to be anything other than distracted–bouncing through our lives like a pinball from one obligation to the next, resorting to our mobile phones or some other bad habit when even the slightest boredom or discomfort threatens our equilibium.

Is this you? If so, what are you afraid of? What’s got you running to cheap thrills every time you feel uncomfortable?

This is how bad habits and addictive behaviors take root in our lives. Some experts think addiction and compulsiveness begin way back in the development of our brains. Inspired by this prospect, a kindergarten in Germany is experimenting with a classroom in which the children are given nothing at all to play with–a room with some simple furniture and some blankets and pillows. Teachers observe, but do not interfere. The children are given no direction in what to play or what to do.

Harsh, you might say, but it’s based on an addiction study which found that, for many, addictive behaviors began in early childhood. In many ways, toys do for kids what bad habits and addicting behaviors do for us: they thoroughly distract us from our bad feelings–at least for a time. The idea is to allow the children to come up with their own games–to give them a chance to find fun in themselves and in each other. The hope is that the children will develop key skills that will help them cope with the adult world–skills like empathy, critical and creative thinking, and above all, self care and healthy self regard.

Could you use a little more strength in any of these areas? (Is there anyone who couldn’t?)

Are you trying to kick a bad habit, lose weight, or just be happier with yourself generally?

Your journey begins with an understanding of how your brain really works as it does its best to keep you happy and breathing. You’ll need a sense of curiosity–adventure, even. Mindfulness isn’t as much a destination as it is a journey into the unknown.

Are you ready? Let’s go.

First, you should understand that your brain is wired to flee pain and seek pleasure. It’s not bad. This instinct helped our ancestors survive. For example, when you find good food–especially high-calorie food–your brain goes out of its way to remember what you ate, how good it was, and where you found it. It doesn’t care that the food is cheap and easy to get, that too much of it might kill you, or that it’s filled with additives that might harm your health. Survival is the priority.

From there, it’s not a big leap to go from satisfying hunger for the sake of survival to soothing other kinds of pain or discomfort. Before you know it, there’s no bad day that can’t be made a little better with pizza or a slice of chocolate cake. The same mechanism works for other kinds of bad habits or addictions. Your body receives a visceral, memorable payoff for engaging in the behavior, and eventually you’re going to it without even thinking.

And the grownup “toys”? They’re everywhere: cheap high calorie foods, social media, alcohol, gambling, narcotics, TV, pornography, and that’s just the beginning. It’s not to say that all these things are bad all the time–there’s nothing wrong with giving a child a toy once in a while. But these distractions, if mistaken for something essential to survival, can destroy your life.

So what’s the solution? Practice mindfulness.

What is mindfulness?
When was the last time you ate a meal–and focused only on the food in front of you and maybe the company you’re keeping in that moment? That’s mindfulness.

Meditation is one method of developing mindfulness. The task in meditation–what makes it such a challenge for so many–is doing and thinking literally nothing. It’s tougher than it sounds. No sooner have you tried to clear your mind than a jingle for laundry detergent or a bill that needs to be paid soon comes flooding in to fill that void.

The trick is to observe yourself calmly and with a sense of curiosity. When mastered, you’ll be able to observe your body and mind working, holding your own consciousness at arm’s length for a moment.

While meditating, one way to gently dismiss thoughts is to picture yourself by a small stream with fallen leaves drifting by on the water. When an intrusive thought comes into your mind, pin that thought to one of the leaves and watch it drift away. When another thought inevitably intrudes, pin that thought on a leaf and watch it drift away.

Are you thinking “this is hokey and hippy-dippy and dumb”? Pin that thought to a leaf and watch it drift away. You can do this with sensory intrusions as well–that car alarm going off, the sound of the heat kicking on, your watch ticking, your phone buzzing at you–pin these to a leaf and watch them drift away. Set a timer and give yourself 15 or 20 minutes to practice this every day. This may feel like a waste of time; it’s anything but. It gets you ready to live in your skin for the rest of the day.

Out there in the trenches of your life, this exercise starts to pay off. You’ll find that when you get a phone notification while you’re driving, you won’t automatically have to check it. When you’ve had a rotten day at work and you suddenly crave cheese fries, you won’t automatically have to give in to it.

These occasions are opportunities to observe yourself, to be curious and collect data about how your body and mind react when a craving comes on. As you work at this, the more intense urge becomes not satisfying the craving, but curiosity about the craving to see what you can learn from it.

Even if you go for that dopamine hit, whatever form that takes for you, observe! You have an opportunity to watch your mind and body as you give in to a temptation. Pay attention to how those cheese fries really taste and how they make your body feel afterward. Ask yourself questions about whether that notification was really worth risking a car accident to check, and what you really got out of the experience. For extra credit, write down what you observe. Journaling adds an extra layer of self-awareness to the exercise which can help develop mindfulness even faster.

The ultimate payoff
Thinking in this way, over time, has a cumulative effect. Your brain is like a muscle. CAT scans of experienced practitioners of meditation show clearly that certain areas of their brains light up more than for the average person. Their ability to observe themselves has grown like a muscle after years of working out. It has an impact on their personality, and these individuals show lower incidence of compulsive behavior and addiction, better focus and concentration, and can better cope with stress.

While it’s true that meditation isn’t a one-and-done proposition, adopting it as a regular practice for even a short time can begin to show significant benefits. In this way, it’s a lot like massage: it feels great once or twice, and can have great benefits long-term, but you have to give it some time.

Honestly, this is just a toe-dip in a vast pool of what there is to know about meditation and mindfulness. There is so much to learn. What’s nice is that if you only want to take it so far, you can. This isn’t a panacea, and there are cautions to consider as you go forward, but just being more aware of your thoughts and your body’s needs is crucial to building more wellness into your lifestyle.

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 blog editor and marketing director for The Good Life Massage. You can hire him to assist with your content marketing and social media by emailing him at tomgunn@gmail.com

7 Mendacious Massage Misconceptions

Massage is becoming more popular every day. The public is finally getting educated on what regular massage can do to benefit your mental and physical health.

Having said that, there are a surprising number of myths and misconceptions about massage that we feel the need to clear up here and now.

This came up as a subject recently in our post about pre-natal massage. In my interview with Christie Ellis, formerly of GLM, the following misconception about prenatal massage came up:

“Prenatal massage can induce labor”
I’ll let Christie take this first one:

“That is a myth! Massage does not cause labor. Acupressure can precipitate labor, and that would be on the level of applying director pressure on a very specific spot for two or three minutes every fifteen minutes over the span of about forty-eight hours.

So there’s no way to come in for a prenatal massage and come out a mother?
“(laughs) No! And to be clear, acupuncture and acupressure are very different than massage. We’re using much broader strokes with massage and there’s absolutely no concern that a nice foot massage could put a woman into labor.

“Another myth I would point out is that abdominal massage can cause miscarriage. That’s out there, too, especially for people who are concerned about the first trimester.

“I do think it’s important to have someone that’s trained for any sort of abdominal work, but massage in general is very safe for expecting mothers.”

But there are plenty of other misconceptions about massage out there. This should put a dent in a few of the more common ones:

“Sure, you feel great right after a massage, but the effects are only temporary”
This idea probably comes from those who really need regular massage, but only tried it once, and went back to the status quo after a day or two. If you suffer from chronic pain or posture issues, regular massage can be particularly beneficial in “retraining” your muscles and your body to be well and whole.

Massage Results take time

You wouldn’t expect to reach all your fitness goals with just one workout, right? Massage is the same way: long-term improvements in your physical health almost never come in the form of a magic bullet. It just takes time and persistence.

If cost seems to be a barrier to getting the treatment you need, you might not have all the facts.

“Does it hurt? It’s supposed to. Just let it happen.”
If you feel pain or discomfort during your massage, say something! While it’s true that some discomfort can be expected in treatment massage, you need to keep talking to your practitioner about your comfort and the treatment they’re doing. Even if a particular stroke or method is supposed to be therapeutic, your therapist can and should honor your requests. The kind of care you receive is entirely in your hands, and should be wholly directed by you.

What’s more, too much pain can actually be counterproductive. If you’re sincerely in pain, you’ll unconsciously tense up other muscle groups, creating the exact opposite of the desired effect for your massage.

“Massage releases toxins and cleanses your system”
Not really. It depends on what you mean by “toxins”. What massage does do is help stimulate circulation throughout your body. This can be helpful if you’re injured. Increased blood flow can be very beneficial in that case. That circulation can include run-of-the-mill cell waste, but there’s no medical magic in stimulating processes that your body routinely caries out anyway. You can get the same effect from vigorous exercise.

“If you don’t walk away feeling like a million bucks, you got a bad massage”
It’s true that, for most cases, people walk away from their massage feeling relaxed, limber, even a little euphoric. But while this is commonly the case, a good massage can sometimes make you feel, well, lousy–at least immediately afterward.

Are you fighting a bug? If you’re getting sick, a massage can sometimes accelerate how quickly you feel the symptoms. You may walk in feeling fairly well, oblivious to the fact that you’re about to get sick, and then get off the table feeling a little weak and achy. If that turns into a bout with a cold or the flu, we feel your pain. But you can’t blame the massage therapist or the job they did for making it happen.

Another scenario is when deep tissue treatment is called for and requested. When your practitioner needs to go deep below the surface tissue to release trigger points and send circulation to distressed areas, this may cause some discomfort both during and just after the treatment.

This can be the case for specialty treatments we offer, including deep transverse friction and myoskeletal alignment. People sometimes report feeling sore after these kinds of heavy treatment-style massages. That does not mean your practitioner did a bad job. In fact, that can be a sign that more regular treatment is called for. It shouldn’t hurt every time, and there should be significant improvement after a good night’s sleep.

“If you have cancer, massage will spread the cancer cells through your body”
This is basically impossible. Massage moves lymph, but cancer doesn’t spread through the lymphatic system. Metastization (the spread of cancer) is due to genetic mutation and a number of factors that have nothing at all to do with the functioning of the lymphatic system.

Having said that, if you’re a cancer patient, it’s wise to consult with your oncologist before scheduling a massage. Relaxation massage at any stage of cancer can actually be immensely beneficial, reducing depression and anxiety. Some studies have even shown that it reduces nausea and pain.

Are there any others you’ve heard that we didn’t cover here? Do you have any questions about massage and what it can do for you?

Let us know in the comments below.

You can also contact us by phone at 425-243-7705

or by email at support@goodliferenton.com

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 blog editor for The Good Life Massage. You can find him online at tgunnwriter.com

Amy Gunn, LMP is a co-founder of The Good Life Massage and has been a licensed massage practitioner since 1999. 

Turtle Power, Part One: 5 Reasons Slow is Better

Pretty businesswoman experiencing road rage
Is faster really better? How many times have you been aggressively passed on the highway by someone who just has to go faster than you, only to look over and see them next to you at the next traffic light?

This post is part I in a two-part series. Follow our blog to catch the next installment!

Slow down! Sure, you could probably stand to break your lead foot habit. But slow is more than just a mode or an easier-to-catch version of speed. It can be the way you live your life–a philosophy that can absorb you and enrich your life in ways you may never have considered.

Here are GLM, we try to embrace this way of thinking in everything we do. Of course, we’re prompt and we stick to our schedule, but the way we structure that schedule is informed by this idea: slow is better.

For example, some massage clinics only leave a five minute gap between appointments in which the practitioner is supposed to be able to change the sheets, run to the restroom, take a deep breath, greet their next client, and start the next session.

We actually extend that 5 or 10 minute gap to 30 minutes. We do this not just for the practitioners (though we’re thinking of them, for sure), but for our clients as well. If the clinic becomes a revolving door of clients with therapists striding up and down the hallway in a rush to get the next person on the table, that doesn’t create a relaxing environment for anyone.

Further, we believe stress can actually be contagious. If a therapist is hungry, exhausted, rushed, flustered, and stretched to her limit, is it really likely that some of those feelings won’t spread to the client through the touch therapy?

If your massage practitioner doesn’t have a chance to slow down and take time for self-care, and to make sure the job is done right, we will never be capable of giving the kind of massage you deserve and need.

Think for a moment about how that same principle might be expressing itself in your own life.

No, really.

Stop skimming this at light-speed for a second, close your eyes, and think about how rushing might be harming your life. Just a second or two is enough, but take all the time you need.

Go ahead, we’ll wait.

What did you come up with? Write your answer down somewhere.

Answering some of these questions might help:

How could your rushing around and “busy-ness” be effecting your spouse/partner? Your children? Your co-workers and subordinates? Do you really like living life at high speed, or do you just have problems with procrastination? Is being busy too much a part of your self-image and sense of worth? It might be time to questions those ideas.

Let it go
Is being busy a part of your self-image and sense of worth? It might be time to questions that.

If you’re still not convinced that slow is better, we have at least five reasons you should consider lifting your foot from the gas pedal of your life.

Greater awareness
When you’re slow, you’re present in the moment. You’re experiencing the precious time of your life as it passes irretrievably into the future. You’re living your life as it was meant to be lived.

How much time do you have left on earth, anyway? You have no way of knowing for sure. Speeding through your life may help you believe the lie that you’re packing a lot in, but are you really tasting it? Do you appreciate how fragile your life is, and how quickly it’s passing?

The span of your life is like an ice cream cone on a hot day: you better savor it, because it won’t last forever.

Slow is cheaper!
Moving, thinking, living at high speed comes with a high cost. In your rush to get things done, you may find that you all-too-easily stay busy while not actually getting much done at all. While checking to see how fast you’re moving, you may not be noticing in which direction you’re going.

Ever hear the expression “Haste makes waste?” Old proverbs like that get passed along because they’re catchy, sure, but also because they’re true. Have you really saved time rushing out the door in the morning at top speed if you forgot something important and had to go back for it?

Moving fast, isn’t
Don’t believe me? How many times have you been aggressively passed on the highway by someone who just has to go faster than you, only to look over and see them next to you at the next traffic light?

For most things in life, you’re not earning any extra points for speed. So why not take your time?

If a job’s worth doing…
It’s worth doing right, which means taking the time it takes to do a task with your full attention. Here’s a mind blower: you know that multitasking thing you’ve heard so much about in job descriptions? It doesn’t exist. Human beings aren’t capable of it.

You can do one thing–ONE–at any given time, and no more. You may be able to shift between things rapidly, but only one will ever have your total focus in the moment. Remember that the next time you’re playing with your kids, or when you get behind the wheel of a car.

Where you place your focus and attention truly matters.

Your physical health
Ongoing stress can tax your body in ways you don’t realize. It increases the risk of heart disease and several kinds of cancer, not to mention high blood pressure and hypertension. Slowing down puts you in tune with your body’s natural rhythms and pace.

While vigorous exercise is important, consider the exercise methods that also bring outstanding health benefits, but which are much slower by nature.

Handsome young man resting after workout in gym
Working the free weights–slowly and steadily–increases muscle control and endurance.

Yoga and tai chi are great examples of this kind of exercise. But this approach isn’t limited to eastern traditions and practices. Even good-old-fashioned weightlifting has benefits when you decide to slow down your reps and focus on control. Your mind can focus more intently on each motion of your body as you go through your routine. If possible, consult with a trainer for a session or two. You might find that your form is much worse than you ever thought!

Also, slow-lifting increases your muscle endurance, de-emphasizing the explosive motion and training your muscles to endure great weight for longer periods of time.

Are you convinced yet? If you’re not sure where to begin, that’s understandable. In the next part of this series, we’ll address the nuts and bolts of throttling down your life and living with more intent and focus.

Tom Gunn is the director of marketing and blog editor at The Good Life Massage. You can find him online at http://www.tgunnwriter.com.

Get Free From Abdominal Pain: A Primer on Visceral Manipulation

The following is a guest post by one of our founders and practitioners, Amy Gunn, LMP. To learn more about her, please see our previous blog post or our website.

Kylee_Amy88
Amy Gunn, LMP, Co-Founder of The Good Life Massage

March is Endometriosis Awareness Month. With that in mind, I thought it would be a good opportunity to share my personal experience with endo. I also wanted to tell you about what a massage technique that changed everything for me–and which could change everything for you if you suffer from any kind of chronic abdominal pain.

I was diagnosed with endometriosis after suffering years of severe chronic abdominal, hip, and back pain. I was also unable to conceive. While abdominal surgery and hormone-altering injections helped with my pain, the benefits didn’t last.

I started to use my knowledge of massage to create a treatment plan for myself. I directed others as they performed bodywork on me. After just a few of these treatments, I had the first pain-free period of my life. I continued these weekly sessions for a year, at which point I was able to conceive naturally and carry a child full-term.

While I can’t promise an identical outcome for everyone who receives these treatments, I’ve made it my mission to offer an alternative to others with chronic pelvic pain. I’ve seen amazing results. I love helping my clients find the relief they’re looking for.

What is visceral manipulation good for?
Many people suffer from chronic pelvic pain from female disorders (e.g., endometriosis or fibroids), surgical scarring, old injuries, or other underlying conditions. Some have to put their lives on hold because the pain gets so bad, nothing they try seems to help.

If you fall into this category, you may be looking for some alternative to pain meds or surgery. Some people have found regular abdominal massage to be an effective pain management tool.

Studies have shown that massage can:

  • Reduce pain spasms and cramping
  • Reduce fatigue
  • Promote tissue regeneration, reducing scar tissue and stretch marks
  • Decrease inflammation
  • Reduce post-surgical adhesions and swelling

The benefits of massage compound and multiply with consistent sessions over time. A single treatment can be beneficial, but regular massage will have deeper and longer-lasting results.

What can I expect during these sessions?
A typical abdominal treatment at The Good Life Massage only takes 30 minutes. Since we want to be able to spend the entire session length on the actual treatment, we ask that you arrive a few minutes before each scheduled appointment. That way we can take the necessary time discussing your health and treatment plan before we start.

Our goal is to help you feel safe and relaxed on the treatment table; you are encouraged to let us know if you are uncomfortable with the pressure or focus of the treatments at any time. Professional draping techniques are always used to keep you warm and secure.

Firm pressure and friction are used throughout your abdominal region to break down adhesions and scar tissue. The pressure can feel temporarily uncomfortable to some, but your practitioner will work to help you breathe through each stroke so you can get the most benefit out of every session.

While your abdomen will receive treatment every time you come in, each session will have a different focus (e.g., lower back, hips, side wall muscles). Because of this, you will probably notice more freedom in your movement over time through your back, legs and hips, as well as a decrease in your chronic pain.

What sort of treatment schedule will I need to set up?
It takes regular treatment to break down scar tissue and adhesions, so it is essential that you start up a consistent treatment schedule. Most people start out with weekly sessions and then cut back on the frequency as they feel more relief from pain between visits.

We have discounts on pre-paid packages available in either a 5 or 10 week series, depending on your needs. For more information on these packages and how they work, you can visit our website or our previous blog post.

Please feel free to contact us with any quesions or to set up a free consultation. Let’s get started on a treatment plan that works for you so you can get back to living the life you’ve been missing out on.

Our email address is thegoodlifemassage@gmail.com
Our phone number is 425-243-7705.

You can also contact us or book your first session on our website.

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.

Warning: Do You Recognize These 5 Signs of Burnout?

Are you a hero, falling on your sword for the good of the people around you? Maybe it’s time to hang up your cape.

You may have this heroic narrative about yourself that feels satisfying in many ways, but that narrative might be slowly killing you each day as you try to live it. You could be

Depressed man working late at night
You could be burning yourself out and not even know it.

burning yourself out and not even know it. But if you learn how to listen to your body, you can learn to tell when it’s time to stop, to slow down, to change course.

 

Ignoring these signals could be perilous in the long term, and could cost you far more than a little rest.

“But vacations are expensive!”

Yes, but so is hypertension. So is heart disease. Letting stress overwhelm you in the long term reduces your productivity and puts you at risk for serious disease, and even death.

Burn-out is beyond the stress and hassles of a bad day. We all go through those sometimes. But how do you know if you’re headed for burnout? None of the things below should be a reason to declare red alert or panic, but two or more of these signs together could be a signal to make a change.

Changes in personality
Are you snapping at people? Are the people around you avoiding you because they don’t want their heads bitten off? Are you a normally extroverted person who’s suddenly staying home instead of going out with friends? If your personality is dramatically changing and the people around you are giving you that feedback, this might be a warning sign.

Emotional zilch
Your emotional responses may also be dulled or blunted. You may come off as being constantly distracted, as always having something heavy and pressing on your mind. Can you still share the joy of a special occasion or an accomplishment with someone you care about? If things are going badly for those around you, are you still able to listen with compassion, or are you too distracted to stay emotionally invested?

No sense of purpose
Is it hard to get out of bed in the morning because … well, what’s the point? Meaning is important. It keeps you going through stresses. Having something to fight for allows you to do, as Winston Churchill said: “If you’re going through hell, keep going.” When burnout is on it’s way, or already here, you’re unable to keep going because nothing seems to matter.

This is the stage where you feel that no matter what you do, there’s just never any payoff, never any way to “win” at what you’re doing. When stress overcomes you, the things that would normally serve as a payoff in your daily efforts no longer seem to deliver the rewards you need to carry on. When you feel like this, every day feels like a bad day.

Flat tire
When was the last time you were “pumped”: excited to dig into getting some work done, to work on a personal project, to seize the day (or even just the weekend)? If it’s been a while, you could be well on your way to burnout, if you’re not there already.

The new normal: sick
Are you constantly getting colds or the flu? Are you at the point where feeling normal and healthy is the exception rather than the rule? Constant, on-going stress with no payoff can weaken your immune response. Getting sick, on its own, does not mean you’re on the road to burnout, but it could be a warning sign you should pay attention to.

Unstring your bow
The string of a bow is under constant stress, which is how it drives the arrow when loosed. All the bow’s power is in its elasticity. But if that elasticity is over-taxed over a long period of time, it will lose all it’s spring, no matter how strong the bow is. And for that matter, bows aren’t invincible. Sustained stress on a bow can cause it to crack and break. If you don’t unstring the bow from time to time, in order to preserve the bow and the string, all it’s power is threatened and will inevitably be lost. You’re a lot like a bow–good under stress, elastic (or resilient), but also prone to being over-taxed, even broken.

Silueta de arquero en puesta de sol
You’re a lot like a bow–good under stress, resilient, but also prone to being over-taxed, even broken.

Just how you unstring your bow will be covered in another post, but basically, you have to make relaxation a skill you’re actively cultivating and getting better at. In our busied, hurried society, it’s more important than ever to stop, let go, and even allow yourself to be bored from time to time.

In fact, we recommend you set aside an entire day each week devoted to resting and reconnecting with yourself and those people closest to you.

Regular therapeutic massage can also be a valuable tool in combating burnout and keeping your resiliency high.

You can book your next massage here, or give us a call at 425-243-7705.

Regular exercise, a good diet, and regular social interaction are some of the best tools in your self-care toolbox.

If you recognize yourself in any of the warning signs above, you might want to consider revisiting these fundamentals of self care.

The Power of No

Charity.jpgYou are a giving person. You care about your family and friends, and even try to help strangers whenever you can.

worn out.jpgBut some days you just can’t take it anymore. You’ve been worn down, turned over, and worn out on the other side as well.

How did this happen?

You may be suffering from a lack of balance in your life.

It may be time to start saying no.

“No”: the other magic word
There’s nothing wrong with being the giving, loving, loyal, valuable individual you are. But sometimes it’s important to remember that you are valuable no matter how much or how little you do. Your value as a person is inherent and infinite. No failing or mistake or limitation on your part can take that away.

Sometimes you need a chance to remind yourself of this. But you can’t do that if you set expectations for yourself too high and commit to too much.

“Can you take on a part of this project for me? I’m just swamped.”

“Do you mind watching my kids tonight? My sitter backed out at the last moment.”

“We were looking for someone to chair the dance committee. Would you be willing to help out?”

If you say yes to one of these things, you have to live with the reality that you may have to say no to the other two. This doesn’t make you a bad person. It makes you a mortal human being with a predicted lifespan of roughly 80 years only 24 hours allotted to you each day, just the same as everyone else. Thinking you are more than this is a lie you tell yourself, and it’s not doing you any good.

Saying no to things can be powerful because it can get you out of your own way. You’re acknowledging the truth about yourself–that you need care and nurturing just like everyone else. It’s amazing how easy it is to lose sight of that, and lose yourself in the process.

How do I find myself again?
It doesn’t have to take long, and nobody will resent you for taking care of yourself first.

Happy teen

Take a walk.

Study and practice the art of relaxation.

Get a massage.

Breathe.

Results!
Piling your plate with too much may give you some sense of being a busy, accomplished person, but buckle up: other people may not see you that way.

sad little girl.jpg
Your kids may see you as being too busy to give them the attention they crave.

Depressed man working late at nightYour boss may see you as someone who struggles to follow through.

Worried Young Couple In BedYour significant other may be sensing you drifting away.

Mother and Daughter Happy.jpgWhen you take care of yourself, you’ll find that all the people in your life will light up as you engage them more fully and completely with your whole self.

So when you hear that little voice in your head saying you’re “too busy,” that voice may be exactly right.

And now you know what to do about it.

Tom Gunn is the marketing director and blog editor at The Good Life Massage. Follow him on Twitter @tomgunnpoet

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.