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From Winter Blues to Good News -- Massage Therapy can help!

Massage Therapy is a treatment strategies for Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) -- massage therapist helping others seasonal sadness community support

Crisp Autumn leaves, colourful quilts on bed, cosy jumpers, and steam rising from a freshly-made pot of tea…

These lovely images cue contentment and can be celebrated markers of the changes in seasons as we pass from Summer to Winter each year.

Along with the cooler temperatures, the lessening length of the day can affect the daily patterns of our lives and those changes affect our professional, leisure, and sports activities and thus, these changes paired with the cold air can cause some to feel feelings of despair in place of the contentment experienced by others.

Change in the Air... Changing moods!

The chilly air rejuvenates some, but for others, the result can leave them wanting more time in bed, craving carbohydrates, and can trigger underlying symptoms of anxiety and depression as the photoreceptors in our bodies receive less sunlight than at other times of the year. These changes in the environment can have an effect on the biological “clockwork” within the brain and affect levels of important neurotransmitters that affect our well-being.

Some look to blame the change in temperatures, others blame the time-change and the artificial changes time as displayed on clocks.

Regardless, the changes in the season are real…and data lets us see these changes have real consequences on the well-being and moods of many. A study by Mayo Clinic states that in countries with higher latitudes, during the winter months, up to 10% of the population may be affected by stresses related to seasonal change and those in that ten percent may be suffering from a type of depression known as “Seasonal Affective Disorder.”

S.A.D. vs sadness...and the effects of Seasonal Affective Disorder

For those who have been diagnosed with SAD, referred to letter by letter or by the word conveniently spelled by this acronym, the cooler temperatures and shorter days can mark the beginning of what can become a very challenging season. Sometimes innocently marked by a craving for sweets and perhaps even a deep desire to snuggle in bed longer than usual when the alarm clock rings, but those can be paired with more serious symptoms that can have dramatic effects on the health and well-being of those suffering with SAD.

This heavy and sometimes silent cause of suffering can allow us as massage therapists an opportunity to help a client and our community members navigate these difficult days. Symptoms of SAD include: changes in mood, reduced energy levels, an increased need for sleep (or “hypersomnia”), withdrawal from others, and an increase in aches and pains in the body.

Here's to Health, Healthy Patterns....and Massage Therapy!

There’s a measurable uptick in medical interventions related to depression and other mental illnesses during changes in the season for those who are susceptible to SAD and other forms of depression.

If you are living in a winter-climate, there can be difficult tasks that are made more difficult by lack of energy and compounded by triggered mood disorders, interrupted sleep patterns and symptoms of agitation. Examples can be seen in Alzheimer patients in assisted living centres and SAD is known to cause changes in sleep patterns, mood, and behaviour coinciding in seasonal changes and have an increased likelihood of SAD for anyone recovering from trauma.

Good News is that there is Good News! Massage Therapy as a Treatment for SAD

Massage therapists have a long and proven track record of improving mood and elevating energy levels in their clients. Patients looking to overcome the symptoms of SAD can find relief by integrating massage therapy into their overall health maintenance routine. The depression and lethargy felt from shorter and colder days can see marked improvement following just one treatment if not a series of massage treatments. Research into how the seasonal changes affect moods in humans show that regular massage treatments improve mood and reset circadian rhythms, leading to improved sleep and more energy. 

Serotonin, a neurotransmitter with important functions in various parts of the body, works to regulate our mood, hunger, learning, memory and sleep. Massage therapy was also found to improve sleep, specifically by assisting with circadian rhythms, or the body clock.

One of the major issues with SAD is that it is essentially a depressive disorder. A lot of research is taking place on the impact of massage therapy for relief of both anxiety and depression. In a 2015 controlled study of HIV-positive adolescents, participants who received massage therapy reported feeling less anxious and less depressed by the end of the twelve-week study.

Resources for your clients

As Massage Therapists, it is a great opportunity for you to connect with and help your clients navigate this difficult time of the year! Your client can benefit from a massage as massage is a scientifically proven way to help someone relax, recalibrate, and adjust to these seasonal changes in their surroundings!

fainting couch meme for Daylight Savings

Perhaps as the season changes, we can all embrace the changes in a season and foster a sense of calmness, cosiness, and relaxation in place of stress and the effects of SAD.  

The change in seasons provides a great opportunity to reach out to clients, colleagues, peers, and friends and here's to massage as a wonderful way to beat those cool-weather "Winter Blues”!

 If you would like to promote the benefits of massage on SAD to your own clients on your social media. Here is a research paper you can use to share among your followers and get them knocking down your doors for regular bookings on your massage table this winter!


Cortisol decreases and serotonin and dopamine increase following massage therapy


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