Tickle therapy, which was started by a certain spa in Spain years ago, is slowly becoming a popular massage option to relieve stress and anxiety. Like any other massage therapy, to create a relaxing environment, clients are still ushered into a dimly lighted room with the lingering scent of burnt incense and soft oriental music. The only difference is it involves a lot of tickling.
The goal of the therapy is to provide relaxation through inducing laughter. It’s also based on popular claims by some mental health experts that laughter can aid the overall well-being of a person. Sessions are usually performed by a gentle massage using feathers and fingertips. Certain muscle areas are stroked gently to produce calming effects and release stress. Though it may be uncomfortable at first, most clients’ have reported positive results after sessions.
Human Touch and Laughter Benefits
Some individuals may have doubts about the efficacy of this therapy and they might even think that it’s just another gimmick. Tickle therapy is actually based on two basic elements which are human touch and laughter. Before we go any further, we would like to first explain these two basic elements and the psychological benefits it offers.
Human touch is one of the most effective ways to show your affection or approval to someone. Whether it’s a friendly hug or a soft kiss on the cheeks or even just the simplest physical gestures like a pat in the back or handshake, it’s sure to generate a warm feeling on your loved ones and those around you.
According to psychological researches, human touch provides many mental health benefits. They explained that under the skin are nerve receptors that interconnect with the nervous system, human touch activates these receptors that significantly affect cortisol levels (reduce damaging effects of stress) and may also improve blood pressure. The nervous system processed these signals as rewards that induce happiness. Dr. Shekar Raman, a neurologist based in Richmond, Virginia, further explained that it doesn’t matter whether you’re the one initiating the contact or others; the more we connect with someone the more we may feel happier and serene.
A study that was conducted at the University of North Carolina observed that women who hugged their partners often have a more positive outlook on life and lower blood pressure. They also found that they have lower risks of heart diseases.
Beyond the happiness factor, the human touch can make you feel more at peace and less anxious, which is one of the main goals of tickle therapy. This is because it releases two important hormones called serotonin and dopamine. These two hormones induce a positive mood and ease stress and anxiety.
Mental health professionals unanimously agree that laughter is a powerful tool to relieve anxiety and stress. Laughter decreases levels of stress hormones that include epinephrine and cortisol. Aside from aiding our mental health, studies also show that laughter may also provide the following:
Enhance the immune system
It increases production of antibodies, thus, strengthening the body’s resistance against infections and disease.
Improves cardiovascular health
We may have heard it many times but this claim is true. According to some research, laughter improves blood vessels and blood flow that reduces the risks of any cardiovascular-related diseases.
One study claims that laughing for about fifteen to twenty minutes per day may calorie-burning mechanism of the body. They estimated that about forty calories are burnt each day for laughing at least fifteen minutes.
A research made in Norway observed that individuals with a good sense of humor tend to live longer than those individuals with a stoic personality.
Laughter is the primary goal of tickle therapy, thus, aside from relieving ourselves from pressures, we may also enjoy other beneficial effects from it.
Tickling therapy is known worldwide to relieve stress—it primarily releases negative emotions through laughter. During laughter, the brain releases endorphins that induce euphoric and calming effects. It also relieves muscle tension. According to observations, it also makes breathing deeper that improves oxygen and nutrient supplication to the entire body.
With the basic elements explained, the concept of tickle therapy may become more justifiable. However, you may ask why can’t we just do it at home? While it’s true that simple massages and laughter at home is beneficial, tickle therapy can actually improve overall well-being significantly because the entire session will only be dedicated to the client. According to Dr. Alan Fridlund, a Psychologist at the University of California, when tickling therapy is done properly and in a genial manner, it can also improve blood flow and flush harmful toxins in the body.
As mentioned earlier, under the skin are tiny nerve receptors that interconnect to the brain. These receptors are sensitive to touch, thus, even the simplest physical gesture will be transmitted to the nervous system. This is the reason why when we touch a hot stove we are likely not to do it again. This is also true when the nerve receptors are stimulated by the touch of another person. The nervous system will initially decide and interpret whether the contact is pleasant or not. It will, however, interpret contact unpleasant if tickling caused pressure. The therapists understand this fact, thus, you may expect a light and gentle tickling during the session.
Why not do it ourselves
As silly as it may sound, some of us may also wonder why we can’t tickle ourselves. The answer is that an area in the nervous system that is responsible for our movement dulls the tickling sensation when we are about to do it on ourselves. There are also observations that the nervous system filters these transmissions out to focus on more important activities. So, to fully obtain beneficial effects of human touch and laughter, we may want to outsource it from another individual.
Tickling therapy is generally safe but according to scientists it may also cause arousal which is called knismolagnia. But not to worry, because you’re therapists are specially trained and they’d know the proper area to massage.