How Stephen Hawkings challenged his illness with mind over matter
So...I don't think it's going to take much arm-twisting to get you to have more massages...is it?
I mean, how good is it to indulge in an hour long relaxation massage with a skilled therapist? Think ambient music, essential oils, your muscles slowly uncoiling under your therapist's professional touch, soooo good!
Perhaps you're the kind of person who needs proof of the benefits before trying? Or, perhaps you've always been curious about massage but not game to get one for yourself? Well I'm here to tell you it is well worth getting a regular relaxation massage - take some time out and your body will truly thank you for it.
Here are 5 proven benefits of Swedish relaxation massage:
It can decrease arginine-vasopressin, a hormone which is involved in blood pressure regulation and water retention (Rapaport, et al, 2010) and normally increases with stress and aggressive behaviour (Peterson, 2012).
It can reduce depression and anxiety (Moyer, et al., 2004).
It can ease back pain and increases range of motion (Hernandez-Reif, et al., 2001).
It can promote sleep and enhance the quality of your sleep (Gauthier, 1999).
It can improve tension headaches and reduce the number of migraines that occur in sufferers (WebMD 2016).
BONUS BENEFIT: Been a bit grumpy lately? A good time-out by way of a relaxation massage is sure to leave you in a good mood, and you can expect a knock-on effect in your immediate relationships. In short, you get a relaxing massage, and your partner and kids will be better off too!
So what happens?
If you've never had a massage before, I know it can be a bit daunting. You may feel vulnerable taking your clothes off, or having a stranger's hands touch you - a perfectly normal concern.
In actual fact, you don't have to take anything off if you don't want to. You can have a massage fully clothed, without the use of oils, of course. You can even ask for a seated massage, so you can feel more in control of your surroundings.
Remember, it is important you are comfortable with how much skin you are exposing, and there is no point in getting a relaxation massage if you can't relax!
So make sure you have a conversation with the therapist about your boundaries if you are feeling concerned.
Also, seek a qualified and professional therapist.
Check out their credentials and make sure they are a member of a reputable industry association. Those with appropriate credentials and industry association can generally be considered more likely to follow professional guidelines and standards, meaning you can really allow yourself to relax under their therapeutic touch.
This is not to say that:
a) someone who has professional qualifications and is a member of an industry association will not behave unprofessionally, or
b) someone who doesn't have this accreditation will automatically behave unprofessionally,
but following up on their professional standards is a way of feeling more relaxed about their professional standing, and your personal health and safety.
What happens in most appointments:
* remember this can vary from therapist to therapist, so this is a basic rundown only*
- Before the appointment, it is a good idea to avoid eating or drinking too much directly before the appointment, but make sure you are well hydrated throughout the day before your massage.
- Arrive early and complete a health history form.
- If you are taking medications or have a medical condition, you should check with your doctor before you get a massage, and make sure you put all relevant information on your health history form. The therapist should study the form and discuss your health history with you. It may be necessary to alter or postpone the treatment if there is something in your chart which contraindicates massage.
- The therapist will seek your permission to provide the massage and show you the treatment room. You will be asked to undress and lay face-down on the treatment table, under a towel. Make sure you discuss with your therapist your level of comfort with undressing. The therapist will leave the room while you prepare yourself on the table.
- The therapist will knock and enter when you are ready.
- Your therapist will begin palpating your body, usually through the towel. That means they are gently pressing on the larger muscle masses of the legs, back and buttocks to get a sense of tension and muscle tone. You can begin to take some deeper breaths here and settle yourself into the massage.
- Following this, your therapist will un-drape the towel from one part of your body, one leg, or your back for example. They will warm oil in their hands and gently glide their hands over your muscles. As your muscles slowly warm, you will begin to feel greater relaxation and calm.
- Once your therapist has completed your back and legs, you will be asked to turn over, and he or she will focus on the legs, chest, arms, neck and head. Some therapists also massage the stomach. Remember, if you are uncomfortable with any part of your body being touched, you can let the therapist know at any time.
- Upon completion of the massage, you will feel very relaxed so make sure you get up slowly. Take a moment sitting on the edge of the massage table before hopping down and getting dressed. You don't want to feel dizzy or woozy. Let the therapist know if you are feeling faint or light headed.
- Once you are dressed you head outside and make your payment. Take it slow, bask in the glowing warmth of relaxation, and make sure you drink plenty of water.
My advice? After your massage, head home, give your loved ones a hug, and settle in with a good book for an early night.
If you have any questions feel free to ask and I'll do my best to answer them.
Disclaimer: Please see your doctor before engaging in any therapeutic body work, especially if you are currently suffering from a medical condition or taking medication. Certain physiological changes during massage can impact your health and safety, and massage is contraindicated for certain conditions. See your GP if you are unsure.
Gauthier, D., 1999, 'The healing potential of back massage', Online Journal of Knowledge Synthesis in Nursing, Vol. 6 (5).
Hernandez-Reif, M., Krasnegor, J., & Theakston, H., 2001, 'Lower back pain is reduced and range of motion increased after massage therapy', International Journal of Neuroscience, Vol. 106, p.p.131-145.
'Massage therapy styles and benefits', 2016, Web MD, 2016, Accessed 10 March 2016, <http://www.webmd.com/balance/massage-therapy-styles-and-health-benefits>.
Moyer, C., Rounds, J., & Hannum, J., 2004, 'A meta-analysis of massage therapy research', Psychological Bulletin, Vol. 130 (1), p.p.3-18.
Peterson, A., 2012, 'Don't call it pampering: Massage wants to be medicine', The Wall Street Journal, 13 March 2012, accessed 09 March 2016, <http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052702304537904577277303049173934>.
Rapaport, M. H., Schettler, C., & Breese, C., 2010, 'A preliminary study of the effects of a single session of Swedish massage on hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal and immune function in normal individuals', Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, Vol 16 (10), p.p. 1079-1088.
Sydney CBD watch out - here I come!
Whether you need to relax and escape a hectic world through massage, find some balance and release with yoga, centre yourself with meditation, or reach for a better you with stress management and wellness coaching, you and your colleagues can find a way to Sunrise Well.
Stress management coaching (all weekdays) face-to-face, phone, Skype - by appointment only
Yin yoga and meditation (all weekdays) private, corporate or group - by appointment only
Massage on Fridays - by appointment only
Group meditation and mindfulness sessions (all weekdays) private, corporate or group - by appointment only
Stress management and health workshops and talks at your workplace - by appointment only
Ph: 0421 487 406 Email firstname.lastname@example.org Or book here!
So if you or someone you know needs to unwind, you want to treat your friend to a secret Friday escape, give me a buzz and we'll set up an appointment.
Sometimes, 'being positive' has been getting a bit of a bad rap...unfortunately the concepts of gratitude and positive thinking tend to conjure up the cringe-worthy image of a smarmy smiley Eastern suburbs green smoothie gurgling yoga fanatic with 'no sense of the real world'. In fact... if you look on the surface, you might even see that in me! Youtube parodies and TV shows mock the stereotype that yoga and healthy living has become, but does that mean some people are missing out on something that might change their lives?
The truth is, positive thinking runs much deeper than that, and the thread can be followed to the increasing presence of Eastern philosophical practices in our Western society. As many of you know, the standard Western lifestyle has left many dissatisfied and disillusioned. The drive to --> work --> earn --> build --> and buy - has left many feeling unfulfilled, off-track, and sometimes flat out depressed.
While more and more of us have sought insight and inspiration in Eastern philosophies on the individual level, many scientists and researchers have also sought to glean new knowledge from ancient practices. In fact, such has the line separating Eastern from Western practices blurred through modern global living, that practices like yoga, meditation and Buddhist philosophies have become a common part of the every day life of many. Also, the anecdotal quips of the benefits of these practices are often being backed up by thorough scientific research.
So why is it that makes some of us recoil when we hear about positive thinking - yet again!?
What is it that gets us all worked up about it?
The truth is, we all have our own inner demons to battle, and sometimes being told to 'just smile' or 'think positive to get positive' when in the midst of our darkest moments can leave us feeling alienated, strange, and misunderstood. If only it were that easy! For those going through real, 's*@! is hitting the fan' life events, hearing this can be the ultimate slap in the face. Yet, while well-intentioned do-gooders can sometimes be annoying, there is something to be said about giving it a go.
---> Confession! You may class me as one of those well-intentioned, do-gooders - it's true! In fact, I am passionate about finding ways to improve health through body and mind, including living with authenticity and positivity. But anyone who knows me will agree that I am not your run-of-the-mill, smiley, 'bless thee' yogi sterotypes, and you don't have to be either if you want to live with more optimism. You can improve your mindset and, as a result, improve your health, without floating away into blissville.
What I'd like to do today, is to urge you to look a little deeper than the modern, superficial presentation of 'positive thinking' and:
- Consider how practicing positive thinking can benefit your physical health;
- Consider how it can benefit your emotional health; and
- Consider how it can help build and sustain emotional relationships around you.
I'm asking you to consider how, on a day to day basis you might start to just appreciate 'being', the mere fact that you are alive in this very moment, and that is all.
Barbara Fredrickson is a social psychologist who has been researching human emotions and psychology for over 25 years. She points out that optimism is a mindset that produces many positive emotions, such as, amusement, joy, happiness, gratitude, serenity, inspiration, and peace. Her research has found that an increase in positive feelings leads to an improvement in levels of happiness, and an enhancement of physical and psychological health, even to the point of seeing healthier gene expression (Positivity: All in the Mind, 2015). Other researchers support Fredrickson's work. Harvard School of Public Health researcher, Laura Kubzansky, found that engaging in meaningful positive emotion and engagement can improve mood, reduce the risk of heart disease, reduce systemic inflammation, and increase antioxidants and good blood cholesterol (The Observer, 2013).
A number of leading universities have taken great interest in researching this fascinating subject. The University of Pennsylvania's 'Authentic Happiness' website of the Positive Psychology Centre is dedicated to researching, reporting, and providing resources on the influence positive psychology has on health and well-being. Centre Director, Dr Martin Seligman, an influencer of Fredrickson, has also spent decades researching positive psychology, focussing on how character strengths and optimism can serve to enhance the well-being of people and communities. If you'd like to discover more about your own character strengths, virtues and approach to happiness, head on over to the website and register to take some of their free questionnaires.
Choosing a different mindset
Some of Fredrickson's work focussed on what happens to people when they consciously change their input and output of positive emotions each day, i.e. when they 'choose to be happy'.
In her trial, participants were randomly assigned to be taught certain techniques to self-generate positivity each day for more than 6 weeks. The techniques were derived from ancient Buddhist and meditation practices. At baseline, the participants were measured physiologically, and completed an extensive survey on their emotional habits. Participants were tracked via a daily log for 3 months. At the end of the study they were assessed again, with monitoring of the heart and blood samples taken, and they also completed the same extensive survey that they completed at the start of the study.
What the researchers found was that those who learned to consciously 'chose' positive emotions had improved heart rate variability and alterations in the gene expression of their immune system (Positivity: All in the Mind, 2015).
What does that mean for us?
So, I bet you're wondering, what are these techniques? What are these positive practices that researchers are proving to be so health-giving?
Does all this mean you have to run around with a smile on your dial all the time, like some kind of Stepford wife?
> I'm happy!
> I'm happy!
> Yay I'm happy!
Firstly, let's be clear. All emotions are useful and should be listened to for what they are communicating. One of the beautiful aspects of yoga is the way it makes you slow down and pay attention to the physical presentation of the body in connection with the mind.
Emotions are not only contained in the mind. You know it yourself. What happens when you feel hurt or overwhelmed or angry? You get a physiological response don't you?
Anger increases the pulse rate, switches on many muscles, clenches your jaw, and prepares your sympathetic nervous system for 'fight or flight'.
Sadness closes in on you. Your world becomes smaller. You become smaller, your eyes are downcast, your shoulders are rounded. These are universal presentations of different emotional states. No one is telling you to just pretend they aren't happening! But what you can do is take a moment to...
Close your eyes. Put one hand on your heart and one hand on your belly. Focus in on your breath and ask yourself,
What emotions am I feeling now? How is this showing up in my body?
Begin to recognise your emotions. See them and accept them.
Often what happens is, we tend to stay in negative emotional states longer than we need. The situation has passed or changed but we are still hanging onto the emotion.
Like ruminating on a past event, going over and over in your mind what someone said to upset you.
Building a positive mindset is about having strategies to move from a negative state up the emotional scale to a more positive state, and as the research shows, doing this on a daily basis builds resistance and makes you more likely to stay in a positive state.
So, step number one is to recognise the state you are in, and step number two is to employ some effective techniques to improve your mindset.
This is the key when those negative emotions are no longer serving you and are only causing you distress and physical strain.
Even more so, this is the key to moving from a flat, humdrum existence, to living with more vitality, greater health, and a daily sense of joy...
...simply for being alive.
There are many techniques to help you improve your mindset.
Try some different techniques to see what works for you.
Or, if you'd like to go a little deeper, contact me to set up a free 15 minute Discovery Session via phone or Skype and we can talk through your next steps to a better mindset and good health.
Wishing you great happiness ;-) xo
'New Frontiers in the Science of Positive Emotions', 2013, Observer, Vol 26. No.6, July/August, accessed 10 February 2016, <http://www.psychologicalscience.org/index.php/publications/observer/2013/july-august-13/new-research-on-positive-emotions.html>
Positivity: All in the mind, 2015, Radio Program, Radio National, ABC, 14 June 2015
University of Pennsylvania, 2016, Authentic Happiness, accessed 10 February 2016, <https://www.authentichappiness.sas.upenn.edu/home>
I joined the gym last year and only went twice! ; I swore I'd stop drinking so much and yet, there I was last week with a killer hangover ; Why do I keep eating that fast food??? Why?!... and it goes on.
Many of us hit the new year with bold ambitions to lose weight or quit smoking, while others are a little more cynical about the true effect of creating new year's resolutions. For many, it can be a time of personal torment, rather than satisfaction and excitement about your plans. As a health coach, I help you create a strong vision and strategy around you health aims and coach you through the process of change. I will be sending out some articles on goal-setting in the next few weeks to help you along with your aims for 2016 ---> so stay tuned!!
For some, their main goal for 2016, is simply to be happier. Sounds pretty straight forward doesn't it ---> Be. Happy.
Then why is it such a struggle?!
What I want to do today is share with you some key information on happiness and well-being and show you 5 free simple apps you can use to increase your happiness and well-being pronto!
We all know that rush you get when someone gives you a little gift. It's definitely a feel-good moment, a part of what Dr Martin Seligman (see below) would call, The Pleasant Life. Like most things pleasant, my way of looking at The Pleasant Life is that it is nice enough, there is appreciation and joy in this life and all your important needs are met, but it's just a little bit bland...perhaps there is a sense that there can be more some how. Going a little bit further with this idea, we meet The Good Life where we use our own unique strengths and gifts to live a better and more fulfilling life. Finally, along this path, we meet The Meaningful Life in which we can use our unique strengths and talents to improve the lives of others and through that gain a greater sense of meaning and fulfillment.
The Meaningful Life: one of the greatest ways to increase personal happiness is to contribute to the welfare of others - volunteering, donation, charity, unpaid work, and, to make this super easy, there are apps you can download to help you!
Study after study demonstrates the positive effects volunteering and social contribution have on health and well-being. Here are just a few articles to read up on:
1. The Journal of Social Science and Medicine, 2008 - Their study suggests that volunteering can increase levels of happiness regardless of socio-economic status.
2. WebMD.com 2015 - cites a study conducted by the University of Exeter Medical School in England which suggests that there is a link between volunteering and better health and well-being, though more research is needed.
3. The Pursuit of Happiness 2016 - (my favourite research into happiness and a great contributor to my coaching programs!) Dr Martin Seligman states that happiness can be gained through altruism, and there is a chance for great gratification in giving and kindness.
So, there are many ways to donate your time and energy to a good cause. If you don't have a lot of time, you may prefer to give a regular donation to a charity of your choice. What I'd like to share with you today though are 5 easy ways you can contribute to a good cause, all from the comfort of your own phone! Technology today, it's just incredible, isn't it?!
So here are 5 apps that you can download onto your phone right now (I believe they are all free downloads) to start making a positive contribution to the lives of others (are you getting the feel-goods yet??).
Note: I'm giving Android apps - because I heart Android over Apple, sorry, haha - but if you take the name and google it, you'll find the iPhone version easily, and I won't hold it against you ;-).
Share the Meal - with US$ 0.50 cents you can feed a hungry child for a whole day through the United Nations World Food Program.
Dream Lab - The Garvan Institute of Medical Research can harness the power of your phone to speed up cancer research, while you sleep!
Tree Planet 2 - One for the gamers! This app donates one real tree for every game tree planted.
Donate a Photo (main site) - For those who love snapping pics! Snap a pic, upload it on the app, share it on social media - basically what anyone with Instagram usually does, except every time you do it, $1 is donated to a charity you have chosen from their list.
Pay it Forward app - This app looks fun! You are given daily suggestions of 'random acts of kindness' to do, can keep track of your 'kindness progress', and view where the most acts of kindness are being performed in the world through the app.
So, time to get downloading! Which of these apps interests you the most? I want to download them all! I currently have the Dream Lab on my phone and I will definitely get the Pay it Forward app. I might switch it up a bit to save space on my phone.
I'd love to hear what you think of them, maybe you can suggest other contribution apps, or even tell us about other volunteering experiences you've had.
Would love to hear from you!
1. Borgonovi, F. 'Doing well by doing good. The relationship between formal volunteering and self-reported health and happiness', Social Science and Medicine, vol. 66; iss. 11, p.p.2321–2334
2. Preidt, R. 2015, 'Volunteering may make people happier, study finds', WebMD Health Day Reporter, 23 August 2015, viewed 4 January 2016, <http://www.webmd.com/balance/news/20130823/volunteering-may-make-people-happier-study-finds>
3. Pursuit of Happiness, 2016, Martin Seligman, The Pursuit of Happiness: Bringing the Science of Happiness to Life, viewed 4 January 2016, <http://www.pursuit-of-happiness.org/history-of-happiness/martin-seligman-positive-psychology/>