Studies are showing that allowing yourself even a few minutes of downtime can significantly boost your mental and physical relaxation, reducing stress on your mind and body.
“Stress is known to have negative consequences for health and disease. However, our bodies have an inbuilt regenerative system, the [parasympathetic nervous system], to ward off stress during times of threat. Launching a relaxation response is thus key to protecting our health and restoring balance in our body. Massage has been used to improve relaxation, yet no systematic approach exists to robustly confirm its effect on the PNS and whether or not this could be used as rehabilitation for patients suffering from stress-related disease. . .
Ten minutes of resting or receiving either massage resulted in psychological and physiological reduction in stress. All participants reported that they felt more relaxed, and less stressed, compared with before the treatments. Further, all participants showed significant increases in heart rate variability, which demonstrates that the PNS was activated and the body physiologically relaxed just by resting alone. The physiological effect was more pronounced when participants received a massage. It was, however, not important whether the massage was soft or moderate — tactile contact in general seemed to improve the relaxation of the body.
‘We are very encouraged by the findings that short periods of dis-engagement are enough to relax not just the mind but also the body,’ says Maria Meier, a doctoral student in the lab of Neuropsychology and first author on the study. ‘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 ten minutes, is an effective way to boost your body’s physiological engine of relaxation.’