“To get a better handle on the negative effects of stress, we need to understand its opposite — relaxation. Relaxation therapies show great promise as a holistic way to treat stress, but more systematic scientific appraisal of these methods is needed.”
The study appears in the September 2020 issue of Scientific Reports.
Simple tactile contact proved just as effective for helping an individual relax as a massage designed specifically to activate the PSNS.
Psychologically, all participants reported feeling less stressed and more relaxed after the tests.
Overall, the experiments confirmed that simply taking a few moments to relax can help a person manage stress. Adding a relaxing massage does even more to activate the PSNS and alleviate the physical and mental effects of stress.
“We are very encouraged by the findings that short periods of disengagement are enough to relax not just the mind but also the body. You don’t need a professional treatment in order to relax. Having somebody gently stroke your shoulders, or even just resting your head on the table for 10 minutes, is an effective way to boost your body’s physiological engine of relaxation.”
Equally important as the study’s finding is the development of a system for objectively evaluating relaxation therapies. With experts often citing stress as the driver of diseases such as depression, a reliable means of validating relaxation techniques clearly has value.
“Massage, being such a commonly used relaxation therapy, was our first study. Our next step is to test if other short interventions, like breathing exercises and meditation, show similar psychological and physiological relaxation results.”