You Need a Massage!
Volunteers who received Swedish massage experienced significant decreases in levels of the stress hormone cortisol in blood and saliva, and in arginine vasopressin, a hormone that can lead to increases in cortisol. They also had increases in the number of lymphocytes, white blood cells that are part of the immune system.
Volunteers who had the light massage experienced greater increases in oxytocin, a hormone associated with contentment, than the Swedish massage group, and bigger decreases in adrenal corticotropin hormone, which stimulates the adrenal glands to release cortisol.
When I was in college, I worked on the basketball staff. One day, we had a girl stop by the office who needed an obscene number of practice hours and offered to give the staff free massages for the semester. So, two or three times a week I would trek down to the gym and get a free massage. What I wouldn't give to have that experience again!
Matthew Ellis serves as executive director of National Episcopal Health Ministries.