It’s well known that because of its effect on the central nervous system – specifically the autonomic branch – reflexology has a unique ability to relax both body and mind, and in turn the damaging effects of stress. Data from a Princeton University study adds still another reason to reduce stress in our lives.
Observations of primate brains, in a study led by psychology professor Elizabeth Gould, confirmed that effort and determination play less of a role in brain development than we would like to believe. Prior to Professor Gould’s research, modern neuroscience was predicated on the hypothesis that all brain neurons emerge during prenatal and early postnatal development; that brain cells were thereafter fixed. Her research demonstrated two important findings to the contrary:
1. The primate brain (that includes ours!) is always creating new neurons.
2. The structure of the human brain is largely influenced by its surroundings, not by individual effort and determination. The research proved that chronic stress halts neurogenesis (the production of brain neurons). This groundbreaking study revealed that the brains of stressed primates literally stopped creating new cells and neural pathways. In addition, evidence showed that existing cells retreated inward. The brains were said to “disfigure.”
Gould’s research carries monumental implications when we consider, not only personal health, but also a society in which stress factors continue to mount.
Fortunately, there is much we can do for our clients and ourselves when it comes to combating stress and encouraging brain development. Reflexology is a modality proven to shift the autonomic nervous system from its “flight or fight” response to stressors to the healing state of “rest and repair”, and therefore a smart choice when selecting a modality for clients complaining of overwhelming stress in their lives.
When people request a stress-reducing session from me, I immediately focus in on the reflexes of the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord); add in the adrenal reflexes to support those busy glands in their efforts to respond to excessive stimulation, and the diaphragm reflex to aid in deep, relaxed breathing and improved oxygen delivery to the brain.
It’s nice to know, isn’t it, that both stress reduction and brain development can result from something as simple as a soothing session of reflexology.