Cuddle therapy, anyone? It may not be the most conventional treatment for depression, anxiety, or similar mental health conditions, but many people swear by the benefits of this therapy and other, similarly out-of-the box treatments.

Although traditional therapy, exercise, and meditation steal all the attention when it comes to finding peace and happiness, there are an abundant number of creative ways to feel better and enjoy life more.

Here are a few healing methods you may want to try.

1. Cuddle therapy

The healing benefits of touch are well known when it comes to massage, but a lesser-known treatment known as cuddle therapy promises an even more profound effect. These friendly snuggle sessions, which take place completely clothed and with zero hanky panky, involve a cuddle therapy practitioner hugging or touching you for 60 minutes or longer.

Some cuddle therapists offer group sessions while others are private. A private session may begin with a guided meditation to connect to the heart, and then include hand holding, hugging, or spooning. The practitioner may rub the client’s back or feet, with the amount of talking depends on the client’s needs, according to the Gilbert-based Firefly Cuddle Healing.

In a group session, people may at first pair off and snuggle up together platonically. Often people pile into a “cuddle puddle” by the end, reports ABC News in San Francisco. The news outlet says English researchers found cuddling reduces heart rate and blood pressure while dissolving stress.

Meanwhile, 33% of people surveyed didn’t receive hugs on any given day, which advocates says underscores the importance of finding cuddles elsewhere, according to ABC News.

2. Journaling

The practice of sitting down and writing whatever comes to mind offers significant mental and physical health benefits for those who do it regularly, according to PsychCentral. Researchers have discovered that journaling improves the immune system and could even alleviate symptoms related to asthma and rheumatoid arthritis.

Psychologists say writing about traumatic or stressful events helps the person journaling make peace with those events and work through any emotional or physical reactions. Journaling provides a safe place to vent, and can help people move past ruminating thought patterns—where they rehash the same event or thought over and over—instead moving to a place of clarity and greater understanding.

Sometimes, the sheer act of writing a thought on paper helps the person journaling realize that a situation or problem is less significant than it appears in the mind. And for more serious situations, journaling may help a person devise new solutions.

Journaling occupies the analytical left side of the brain, freeing mental energy on the creative right side to help people better understand themselves and their surroundings, opening the space for new perspectives, PsychCentral adds.

3. Music therapy

Music soothes the soul whether you play a favorite song while dancing around your living room or listen in a more quiet way while relaxing in a favorite chair. A more structured form of interacting with music, known as music therapy, also holds promise for helping people heal from emotional and mental conditions.

A study conducted in Belfast found children and adolescents who participated in healing music therapy experienced less depression and had superior communication skills than those who didn’t listen to music. Study subjects had pre-existing behavioral and emotional difficulties. The study was the first to quantify long-known anecdotal evidence about music therapy, researchers said.

Music therapy is different than just listening to music. It involves a certified music therapist who customizes client sessions with a range of techniques, including music improvisation, song writing, performance, or other types of activities, according to the American Music Therapy Association.

However, even if you don’t see a music therapist and opt instead to informally jam out to a favorite song, carving out this time to listen may improve concentration and memory, reduce feelings of pain, promote emotional healing, and uplift mood, according to Mayo Clinic.

4. Cupping

If you’re not afraid to try a therapy that leaves its mark, consider cupping. Purported benefits include alleviating anxiety, depression, migraines, arthritis, and fibromyalgia. These benefits are not currently backed by research, only anecdotal evidence, reports WebMD. Cupping advocates also say the therapy enhances overall wellbeing and provides a sense of relaxation.

Cupping involves the placement of special cups made out of glass, bamboo, or earthenware on the skin, often on the back, to create suction. The idea is that the suction enhances blood flow and facilitates healing.

The suction action may come from the practitioner swabbing the cup’s rim with rubbing alcohol, lighting it on fire, and then placing the heated cup on the skin. Other methods are also sometimes used, but they generally involve fire. Flames never touch the skin, but sometimes a mild burn may develop from the heat.

The suction gently pulls the muscles up from the body, which is the opposite action of a massage, but may provide a similar relaxing benefit, according to the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine. Just like acupuncture follows the body’s invisible lines of energy known as meridians, cupping therapists often follow those same lines to determine the placement of the cups.

Depending on the physical or emotional complaints a patient enters the session with, the practitioner would devise a treatment plan that focuses on the corresponding meridians. Specific energy lines are associated with each organ and body part.

The therapy has been used for centuries, and there’s evidence the ancient Chinese and Egyptian cultures relied on its curative powers, in addition to ancient Middle Eastern societies.

Side effects range from slight pain during or immediately after treatment to bruises or mild burns.

5. Reiki

Reiki is a Japanese style of energy work that focuses on a person’s level of life force energy. Low life force energy leaves one feeling less vibrant and alive, more tired and likely to fall ill.

The healing therapy is completed essentially hands-free—practitioners either lightly touch the client’s body or hover their hands above it. The underlying idea is that the practitioner’s energy activates the healing energy, or life force, innate in the client’s body, encouraging the body’s natural healing ability.

Few clinical trials have been completed on reiki, but many people praise its benefits anecdotally, particularly for feelings of anxiety, overwhelm, or depression.

Have you tried any of these alternative healing therapies?

Image by Walt Stoneburner via Flickr

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