World Mental Health Day: How massage therapy can improve mental health

Ahead of World Mental Health Day on the 10th October, we sat down with dance instructor Leanda Mace and Charlie Thompson, Co-Founder and Managing Director of The Massage Company, to hear Leanda’s story and discover how massage works as a mental health therapy.

Studies have found that massage therapy is an effective method to help alleviate symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression – but for most of the British public, massage wouldn’t be their first port of call as treatment for mental health problems.

Yet an increasing number of people are accessing massage therapy to help with their mental wellbeing – including Leanda Mace, a yoga teacher and dance instructor from High Wycombe.

After experiencing a personal tragedy, Leanda found that massage therapy had a significant positive impact on her mental health, and is now a passionate advocate for massage as a complimentary mental health therapy.

“I’ve recently been through a tough time in my life,” explains Leanda. “I’ve been on antidepressants; I’ve been on an up and down journey through events that have happened to me. And although I talk about wellness and wellbeing all the time, in my work, I’ve not been very good at listening to myself.”

That changed when Leanda started her subscription to The Massage Centre in High Wycombe. Despite originally using massage as a way to alleviate muscle aches and pains brought on by her physically demanding career, Leanda soon began to feel an improvement to her mental wellbeing – and it’s now her primary reason for using The Massage Company.

“I used to need massage for the physical side of it, but that has done a complete 360 turn. I now need The Massage Company in my life for my wellbeing. It allows me to breathe, it gives me that clarity. Whatever it is – endorphins, toxins, tension – that is released, it just changes my mindset. I walk out with a sense of… Shoulders down. Head up. I can face this.”

So, what is it exactly that gives people like Leanda that sense of relaxation and relief when the have a massage – and how does it scientifically aid our mental health?

Charlie Thompson, Co-Founder and Managing Director of The Massage Company, explains, “There’s a number of things in the way that massage works for the body and mind. Firstly, you’re releasing lactic acid from the muscles, which reduces tension in the muscles and pressure on the nervous system. Secondly, massage increases serotonin and dopamine [by 28% and 31% respectively]. Thirdly, it reduces cortisol – the stress hormone.”

According to Charlie, there’s a 20% – 25% increase in the number of people who visit The Massage Company for mental health reasons – both as an alternative to medical interventions like antidepressants and in addition to. Some clients have also found it beneficial as they transition away from long-term mental health medications, as part of their recovery.

Although there have several studies on the link between massage and mental health, it’s still not seen as a ‘mainstream’ complimentary therapy in the UK – which may be due to lack of access to consistent, high-quality and professional massage in a safe environment.

“I think that word ‘safe’ is really important for mental health,” says Leanda. Massage for mental health can be an emotional process, she explains. Most people’s experience of massage – if they have any at all – will be through a spa or salon: environments that just aren’t conducive to using the therapy for mental health reasons.

“You know that every therapist at The Massage Company has been trained to a point of excellence” explains Leanda. “You could end up sobbing. If that were to happen at The Massage Company, I would feel incredibly safe. And I know the therapist would deal with that professionally.”

Accessibility, too, is a barrier to the therapy, which is why The Massage Company’s goal is to bring their consistent, professional brand of massage therapy to high streets across the UK. With their unique subscription model and comfortable, secure and conveniently located centres that are open seven days a week (from 9am until 9pm on weekdays), The Massage Company are attempting to make massage part of the stable of complimentary therapies that can help people to address their mental health – whether it’s as part of a medical process or as a positive step on their own personal wellbeing journey.

Charlie elaborates, “The factors that need to come together to make massage therapy a really efficient solution for anxiety, stress, depression, and mental wellbeing, are accessibility, better training for therapists (which we take care of with our training program) and awareness. There’s still so few people who would consider it as a first port of call, yet when they do, it makes such a big difference.”

For Leanda, it’s been a life changing experience – one that continues to benefit her day-to-day life. “I’ve now come to realise that I need this – and that the benefits are enormous. I’m here and I’m smiling and I’m feeling well. And I’m not going to give it up. The Massage Company is very much in my mental health toolkit.”

About The Massage Company

Since its inception in 2016, The Massage Company has continued to challenge common pre-conceptions of massage and the stereotype of the industry. Their vision is simple: to bring high-quality massage to the wellbeing mainstream. They want people to see massage as accessible to everyone and good value for money, so it can become a vital and routine part of a better and balanced quality of life. Their centres in Camberley, Tunbridge Wells, High Wycombe and Sutton Coldfield are in highly convenient locations, with franchise opportunities available and plans to expand on a national scale.