Quality of Touch
The Massage Song
Touch is our first and most basic language. We use it to tell our deepest stories of connection with each other.I like to think of my massage work as a "song" I sing to clients through the physical contact of my hands.
In your massage appointments with me, although things like focus areas and conversation may vary, the underlying meaning of the massage is always the same. Before long it comes through.
It is a tender message of kindness, compassion, and love. It is a lullaby to your precious inner self. It is a quiet story of belonging. You are one of my people. Close your eyes and rest, dear friend. You are safe.
How It Works
Consistently, the number one response people have always had to my massage work is that they feel cared about. This is a natural physiological response based in the nervous system.
When your body feels safe and loved through therapeutic physical contact, your inner perspective can shift. You can let go of negative, circular thinking. You can feel grateful, generous, curious, and creative. New possibilities often become visible that you couldn’t see before.
Let's help you feel better to live better.
What is Massage for Mental Health?
The Science of Felt Safety
Our nervous system's role in many mental health conditions is becoming increasingly clear.
'Fight or flight' mode is about staying alive. When your body senses a lack of safety, it automatically shifts into survival mode to protect you. Your brain and organs literally function differently so you can escape from that tiger.
But often we get stuck that way with no tigers around, which keeps us from thriving.
Living in survival mode all the time is damaging to your system. Elevated stress hormones lead to muscle tension, headaches, and upset stomach, as well as irritability, impatience, and negativity. You perceive threats even where there are none. Sound familiar?
Our bodies need to feel safe so we can shift back into 'safe and social' mode. Then we can experience the world around us in a health way, with curiosity, compassion, and gratitude.
Our Deep Need for Connection
We are designed for touch. It's our most basic human language. Gentle, affectionate touch naturally results in a deep sense of self-acceptance, connection, and worthiness. Without touch, babies fail to thrive.
Yet as adults in the United States we are chronically touch-starved.
Widespread loneliness and disconnection, along with the challenges presented by internet culture and social media, contribute to destructive thought patterns, negative body image, and all sorts of unhealthy coping mechanisms.
Our bodies need safe, healthy physical contact to feel deeper connection with ourselves, our people, and our purpose.
Feel Better from the Inside Out
Feelings of unsafety and disconnection prevent us from showing up in life as our best selves.
Thankfully, relaxing massage causes the body to shift from 'fight or fight' to 'safe and social,' thereby directly alleviating symptoms of anxiety, depression, grief, loneliness, negative body image, and a host of other seemingly-unrelated ailments.
Researcher Tiffany Field found that outcomes for anxiety and depression patients who receive regular massage are as good as outcomes from psychotherapy. She calls this 'affective' massage because its therapeutic goals pertain to affect (i.e. mood and emotions).
I have worked with all kinds of people. From athletes and entertainers to public figures and executives. What I've found is that we're all just people with bodies in need of safety and connection.
The initial reasons people contact me usually have to do with muscle tension. But the most valuable benefits people describe from my work are a unique sense of safety and connection, and gradually a special kind of companionship. This helps them feel better in order to better live out their purpose for the people and things they care about.
This is massage for mental health. Let's help you feel better to live better. You're worth it.
I’ve been practicing massage therapy full time since January 2014. Until the economic shutdown in March 2020, I primarily worked at two busy Eastside massage clinics where I performed well over a thousand massages per year. What I’ve consistently seen from the beginning is that, beyond relieving basic muscle soreness, my massage work reliably stimulates a specific emotional response in my clients. People feel a distinct sense of safety and connectedness. Offering people this beautiful feeling is my particular gift and expertise.
Clients often describe my touch as having a soothing, healing energy. Rather than being worked on like a machine, people feel as though they are being cared for like a loved one. This is absolutely intentional. The feeling of safety is due to the way my unique quality of touch communicates safety directly to my client’s nervous system and activates a parasympathetic response in their body.
When the Body Feels Safe
When people’s bodies are physiologically able to switch gears into relaxation mode and finally release their grip on the deep impulse to defense themselves, all kinds of healing possibilities open up in the brain and body. Cortisol levels (the stress-reactivity hormone) go way down. Dopamine (reward center) and serotonin (mood regulation) neurotransmitters are released in the brain, as well as a huge dose of oxytocin (trust and bonding hormone). All this neurochemical activity is deeply refreshing for the brain. And it feels amazing. It feels like being alive and at peace.
This parasympathetic response also makes my massages an excellent setting for people to talk about things they’re going through. Although I don't give advice because that is not within the scope of my massage practice, I’ve noticed that most people aren't looking for advice. They mostly want to feel heard and understood without judgment. Well, there is no judgment here, and compassionate listening is most definitely within my scope of practice. I often hear from clients that they find our conversations during the massage to be as valuable and meaningful to them as the massage work itself.
In this way, the kind of safe, gentle, nonsexual healing-touch therapy I practice enables the potential for many kinds of inner health benefits. Different clients think of these benefits in different ways, some as primarily physiological, some as psychological, and some as energetic or spiritual. This is totally okay. The benefits are real, regardless of the label we use to describe them.
Many of my clients like to talk. Others occasionally doze and have beautiful dreams during their massage. Some like to meditate. It's really up to you. Like a miniature vacation. You’re free to spend the time however you need.
Massage for Mental Health
Good mental health is important for everyone. I chose the phrase “massage for mental health” as a way to loosely describe the kind of work I do, as well as a way of inviting clients to seek me out who are going through something difficult. And while I don’t offer counseling services or claim to treat any medical conditions in the way a medical doctor would, I have witnessed first hand the exciting ways in which my massage work serves therapeutic mental health goals, especially by affecting the nervous system through safe, compassionate touch.
It’s simply true that feeling cared about changes things -- sometimes in unexpected ways. My massage work does this for people. I look forward to meeting you and seeing what we can do to help you feel better, together.
Nick Conrad, LMT