Thousands of people will attest to the fact that reflexology feels good, but what exactly is going on in the body to elicit those comments
It is also true that we live in a world that often short-circuits our natural biology, producing stress neurochemicals instead to help us respond to the daily pace of our modern lives.
There are four primary categories of hormones produced in the brain that cause that good feeling we all crave. They can be referred to by the acronym DOSE (dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin and endorphins), and it turns out that reflexology and certain other forms of bodywork set in motion the production of these happy drugs.
So, let’s get familiar with those drugs!
Dopamine: The Pleasure-Reward Neurotransmitter
Dopamine is a chemical messenger secreted in anticipationof a reward. It drives our motivation to take action towards something we want.
Try sending an email or text reminder prior to your clients’ appointments to help fuel that surge of dopamine. Suggest they get a head start on feeling relaxed and rejuvenated by imagining, as they are driving to their appointment, how good they will soon feel when on your table receiving reflexology.
If the session produces noticeable results, remind the client to make note of their reduced headache, anxiety level, or whatever the complaint was as they drive home. That will stimulate the release of even more feel-good dopamine.
Oxytocin: The Hug Hormone
Research has shown that touch stimulates oxytocin release, reduces cardiovascular stress and improves immune function. Some of those same studies have also indicated that bodywork intent on relaxing(such as reflexology) enhances oxytocin release more than vigorous, deep-tissue forms of bodywork.
So, as you wrap your hands around your clients’ hands and/or feet, you might want to acknowledge that you are literally offering a loving oxytocin-charged hug! And, if it feels appropriate to you, perhaps you might want to offer a post-session hug to stimulate an even greater feel-good buzz before they leave your office.
Serotonin: The Happy Hormone
Serotonin, another mood-boosting neurotransmitter, influences the production of that feel-good hormone dopamine. Coincidentally, one of the most effective ways of increasing serotonin is through bodywork. (The other two natural ways are exercise and social bonding.)
How often have you smiled to yourself when you witness a client fall asleep on your table? You can thank serotonin and reflexology for that snoring. Your touch just increased the production of serotonin, a key contributor to sleep.
Endorphins: The Painkillers
The endorphins are the body’s version of morphine and codeine. They are released when we encounter real or perceived pain, threat or other stressful situations. They work alongside serotonin to help alleviate anxiety and depression.
Researchers have discovered that slow, sustained, deep bodywork best stimulates the release of endorphins in the body. That discovery confirms to me the importance of offering a thumb-walknot a thumb-racein my reflexology sessions, and to make firm deliberate contact with ‘each step’.
Feel-good chemicals, such as dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin and endorphins, motivate people to take steps toward what’s good for their survival. They entice people to return to your table for more, and that’s good, because… regular reflexology can tilt the balance from stress towards relaxation and healing.