Anxiety and depression are common yet serious disorders. Massage therapy may help.

An estimated 18% of adult Americans suffer from some type of anxiety disorder and approximately 10% suffer from some type of depression. These disorders may coexist and are often untreated. Depression and anxiety can interfere in social functioning and lead to increased risk of unemployment, illness, and even death. They can play an aggravating role in other health conditions and render an individual more vulnerable to disease. While anxiety and depression can often be treated successfully with medications, psychotherapy, or a combination of both, these options are not always sufficient, desirable, or available. Some individuals may be unable or unwilling to take medications because of health conditions, drug interactions, personal beliefs, or unpleasant side effects.

Psychotherapy is not available in all communities and may be prohibitively expensive and time-consuming. Social stigma may prevent some individuals from seeking treatment. Some individuals just don’t respond well to conventional therapies. Clearly, an easily accessible treatment devoid of bothersome side effects could be helpful.

Research has shown that massage therapy can have a beneficial effect on both anxiety and depression.

Early research at the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami Medical School demonstrated that 30 minutes of daily massage therapy to hospitalized depressed adolescents over a 5 day period brought about an improvement in mood and behavior. Since then, many studies have documented that massage therapy can have a beneficial effect on depression and anxiety. In fact, it is one of the most consistently documented results of massage.

Anxiety can be divided into two general classes: state anxiety and trait anxiety. State anxiety is a temporary reaction to a stressful situation. Trait anxiety is an ongoing, chronic state of anxiety. There are many specific anxiety disorders, such as panic attack disorder, post traumatic stress disorder, social anxiety disorder, etc. Massage therapy has been shown to have at least mild benefit for both state and trait anxiety, and even a single session of massage may help to alleviate the symptoms of state anxiety. However, a series of massage sessions has been found to offer the most benefit and seems to be particularly helpful for trait anxiety disorders.

How does massage therapy work?

We don’t exactly know how massage works to alleviate depression and anxiety. For many years, it was thought that massage reduced the stress hormone cortisol and this brought about the improvement. However, more recent research has shown that massage does not reduce cortisol in the way in which we thought. No one is exactly sure how massage effects change. Some hypotheses exist but do not have sufficient data to support them. Specific effects on the nervous system, hormones, neurotransmitters, etc., are still under investigation. We know that humans are biologically wired to respond to touch. Perhaps it is the combined effect of focused, caring attention and tactile stimulation, or perhaps the muscular relaxation signals the brain to shift to a more calm state. Fortunately, we do not need to understand precisely how this change comes about in order to benefit from it. As we learn more over time, it may help us understand how to optimize massage therapy’s effects and help massage gain acceptance as a treatment for anxiety and depression.

Christopher Moyer, Ph.D., is a psychologist who has made significant contributions to the field of massage therapy research. His paper, Affective Massage Therapy, published in the peer-reviewed International Journal of Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork, describes some of the history of massage therapy research and, in particular, examines the research on massage and anxiety and depression. Moyer was co-editor of the book Massage Therapy, Integrating Research and Practice and wrote the chapter on anxiety and depression. In the “recommendations” section of the chapter, Moyer states:

Massage therapists can be confident that MT has been scientifically demonstrated to reduce anxiety and depression, and that the benefits are substantial. Indeed, there are probably no other effects in MT research that have been as consistently demonstrated as these mental health benefits.

Moyer takes care to point out that, like any treatment, individual responses will vary and massage therapy will not work the same for everyone. We still do not know the optimal amount and pattern of treatments to get the greatest effect.

Depression and anxiety can be very serious and massage therapy should not be a replacement for proper medical attention when it is needed. Clients and therapists alike should recognize its limitations. However, one of the advantages of massage therapy is the ease of access. No prescription is needed and one does not typically need to wait weeks or months for an appointment. Gentle massage should have no detrimental side effects and social stigma is generally absent. Mild benefit is often felt immediately and even greater benefit can come from a series of sessions. All these factors may make it an appealing resource for the person living with anxiety or depression.

Clients suffering from anxiety or depression should inform their massage therapist so they can treat appropriately. Professional massage therapists are expected to respect client confidentiality. Clients do not need to be embarrassed and do not need to reveal details which they might prefer to keep private.

Massage therapists should familiarize themselves with common mental health problems, assess anxiety and depression during intake, and inform clients who admit to anxiety or depression that massage therapy may help.

Living with anxiety and depression is a painful and distressing experience. Proper treatment is important. Massage therapy can be of benefit. Please, if you know someone who is suffering from anxiety and depression, urge them to get the care they need so that they can go on to live a more successful and productive life.

Family photography need not be a hassle to anyone, and least of all to you, the photographer. All it needs is a bit of planning. The first thing to do is to find a location. There should be enough space to pose for everyone and natural light can be used. The choice of an outdoor venue will be ideal as long as the weather holds up. The background for the photograph should be simple, uncluttered and complimentary to the pictures that you hope to take.

Lighting the family photographs
Family photographs are no different from others where lighting is concerned. Just ensure that they are not squinting with too much light or are covered in shadows. Family photographs are for recording purposes and as such needs to be very clear. Taking the photographs in natural light is best. Early morning or at sunset seems to give the best results and if it is indoors light from a window can illuminate the picture.

Have a relaxed atmosphere
Get the family to relax and then start taking the photographs. You can ask al the family members to make the funniest faces possible and then keep on taking after they have stopped. This way you will get natural smiles and a relaxed group of people.

Posing can be traditional in some of the shots while in others you can ask them to be just comfortable and not think of stuffy poses. Make it fun. Encourage interaction among family members. They can put their arms around each other or children can be seated on another’s lap. This way it is easier to get natural looking photographs which are definitely more interesting than the strictly posed ones.

As the photographer you should know how to make the shot interesting. This can be done with seating them at different levels for a more dynamic look.

Photo angles
The photographs can be taken from different angles like a step ladder where you are looking down on the group and as they look up you will get a good photograph with good facial features. Other angles can be tried along with the traditional eye level.

Fill the frame
The best family photographs should not have any outside distractions in them. An easy way to ensure this is to have the frame filled with the family. This will center the focus on the faces of the family members

Individual portraits
Take fun family photographs of each individual member of the family. This way you will be able to make a digital collage and with a bit of creativity will end up with an exceptional photograph. Individual portraits can be posed with a favorite toy or a pet or near a car. This way it will be like a story about each person’s character and can be really exciting to look at.

So, you can see that there are endless possibilities for making lovely memories by taking family photographs. If you need any of these pictures to stand the test of time convert them into black and white images.

A family portrait is more than a photograph, it is a veritable heirloom that will be passed down from generation to generation, a rich artifact of family tradition that will speak to your kids and grand-kids of their past, and where they come from. Not any random photographer can fulfill the needs of a family portrait. To capture the essence of your family, you need to invest in a professional portrait photographer.

Although you might think of a professional portrait photographer as a frivolous expense, when you consider the fact that your family portrait is more like an investment that will last for generations, the expense seems quite justified. Not only will it give joy and comfort to your kids and grand-kids, when your own children have left your house for college or jobs, you will be able to look back at your family portrait and derive immense joy from it.

Before you set off on your search for a portrait photographer, you have to consider three things: your budget, the kind of photograph you want to get captured, and what you plan to do with it.

Your budget will dictate your choice of photo studio. Most photo studio charge their clients a low fee per session. A busy photographer might have several such sessions throughout the day. The photographs are captured in a studio setting, and you can request anything from formal portraits to high key photographs against a white background, to even ‘action’ shots. A good photographer should be able to work with you to achieve the exact kind of portrait you desire. A quality studio will also be able to supply you with the entire spectrum of after shoot services such as prints and frames.

Next, you must consult your family about the kind of family portrait photograph they want to get captured. You can choose a high key portrait with a white background, a more demure, sober low-key photograph with moody lighting and dull colors, or even an outdoor photograph that captures your family together in the midst of an activity. A quick look at his portfolio will give you an idea at the kind of work your photographer is good at.

Finally, you must decide what you plan to do with the portrait after they have been captured. Do you want a large framed print that you can hang on the wall, or a series of photographs that capture different moments in the family? Would you prefer a printed canvas, or perhaps you want to go a bit trendy with a printed coffee table book? The quality and style of the portrait will vary with its intended use. A quality portrait photographer will be able to recognize what you want, and capture photographs accordingly.

For information on a Vancouver photographer click here.

Themed Family Photography, Anyone?

Family pictures are a lot more interesting these days. These days when there are lots of options people can avail of, the days of lacklustre photos are gone giving way to exciting themed ones.

Families who want their picture taken and displayed in their precious homes have several theme concepts they can based their shoots on. It can be about superheroes, a celebration of Halloween, a feature on Hollywood, musical and even on favourite television shows.

A picture may showcase superhero favourites of family members and they will surely have a fun time wearing costumes and pretending to be a hero while having their pictures taken.

Others who love different kinds of character may have a photoshoot with a Halloween-themed session where kids will have fun dressing up as pumpkins and bees while adults take on scary costumes.

For the movie-buff family, a Hollywood-themed family photography session is a sure-fire way to have a blast in the studio while having their moments captured in picture. Family members may choose from the many movies with exciting costumes and backdrops and the end result will be great photos for sharing with extended members of the family and friends.

Some of the possible Hollywood blockbuster movies where family photography can be lifted on are those era-based like Gladiator, Troy, A Knight’s Tale; those movies featuring unforgettable moments such as Titanic and The Hunger Games; or those magical themed films such as Narnia and Harry Potter.

Families who love music will surely enjoy a fun session with some of the greatest songs playing in the background while they put on costumes from Moulin Rouge or Hairspray movie. Those who would like a hip version may choose to have a pictorial based on the hit movie, Grease for a unique effect.

Television viewers who are fanatics of certain shows may also choose to put on costumes and makeup and be their favourite characters in such TV series like Glee and Chuck for their family photography. Both adults and kids will enjoy the colours and variety of Glee-based outfits while the serious ones who love spy series would like the serious, sporty, and slick costumes based on Chuck.

There are surely so many themes to choose from whatever fits the family’s mood and preferences. The theme is a great remembrance for get-togethers. It is also a fun way veering from the traditional family portraits lacking colour and vibrancy.

You only need to type “family photography” into google to see that there are literally hundreds of family photographers to choose from.

Here are some of the things you should be thinking about when planning your family photo shoot:

  1. Studio or Outdoor – Do you like studio photography or do you prefer natural surroundings? Whether you live a city or in the country, you will have access to beautiful outside spaces, which make great locations for family photo shoots.
  2. Style – Do you like a traditional or contemporary style? Look at examples on photographer’s websites and shortlist the names whose work you like.
  3. Budget – What is your budget? Assume you will like the photos and will naturally want to have some (or all) of them to keep. Compare prices of photographers that you like.
  4. Finished Products – What do you want to have at the end of the shoot – a single, large framed print on the wall, a variety of framed prints (storyboard), the digital images to share with family and friends?

Once you have decided on the above, you can search more specifically online (for example, searching specifically for studio photographers or contemporary photographers). Look at photographers websites to see if you like their work and to confirm whether they suit your budget and product requirements. Also ask your friends – word of mouth is a great way to get a recommended LA family photographer.

Once you have a shortlist of portrait photographers, get in touch to confirm any outstanding questions that you have. Some points to bear in mind and ask for clarification are:

  • Session Fees – be aware that very low or free session fees could mean higher product prices
  • Product Prices – are these available on the website? If not, clarify. Be wary of “prices start from £x”. It might be a good idea to think about what you will likely want and check that price specifically, for example, a 20x16inch frame.
  • Digital images – if these are available, does that include printing rights, are the images high resolution?
  • Availability – some portrait photographers may be booked in advance, so have some dates in mind
  • Clothing – ask your photographer if they have any advice on what you should wear for the shoot. I usually advise comfort, something that you like, plain rather than patterned, cute accessories for children such as hats and being aware that bold logos and fashion fads will date more quickly.
  • Products – clarify how long it takes for products to be ready, particularly if you have a deadline such as a birthday present in mind.
  • Specifics – if you have any other questions on your mind, just ask for advice. For example, sometimes I am asked if the family dog can be involved or I am told that one child in particular is very camera shy. Any information like that is useful.

Probably the hardest picture to set up and pull off is the group family photograph. These pictures only really work when everyone is on the same page, looking at the camera and smiling at the same time. Synchronizing by getting everyone to say “cheese” is the typical way to get everyone smiling. But it doesn’t always work.

Here are some things to think about when trying to snap that lovely family portrait to make everyone happy:

Put the Group at Ease – It is essential that all participants in the photo are at ease and comfortable with each other as well as the San Diego Family photographer. If the photographer also happens to be a family member then being at ease should not be a problem. With no strangers in the midst, relaxing before the camera is not a problem.

Move into Scene – Don’t be afraid to move into the scene, cutting out the background and focusing just on the people. Crop off the top of the head of the taller people, in order to emphasize a connection among family members. Allow the drama of kinship and love to play out before the camera. Let the family members interact before snapping the picture. Saying “cheese” while always listed as one of the most important family photography tips, is not always a good one, and will make people go rigid and become less candid, so sit them down and let them get comfortable. The good shot will follow as you watch.

Blur the Background – Blurring out the background makes the people aspect more dramatic. It makes the family the focus of attention, because, after all, the family unit is what you’re shooting.

Candid within the Group – There is always someone in the family at a gathering who doesn’t want to sit for a picture. Today’s small compact cameras make it simple to get candid shots without have to pose everyone. Keep the camera in your pocket as you work the room. Find your shot and compose it and shoot quickly. It takes practice, but grab-shots do come out well with a little thought and focus.

Taking Multiple Shots – When trying to capture everyone in one group, the only real successful way to do it is to take many shots, and quickly. Shooting in rapid bursts of three or four shots at a time will get the good shot for which you’re looking. The first shot is usually a throwaway shot. However, the second or third will probably be the keeper. Shoot some shots before everyone is ready. Some of the best pictures are of the actual organizing to sit part of the activity.

Timing is Everything – Choosing your timing carefully will make or break the shot. However, true timing can only be learned with practice. Another of the suggestions that tops the list of family photography tips is that the quicker you learn to compose or to know what you want in composition the better will be your timing. Try to work taking of the picture within the natural flow of events, when the family is naturally together rather than artificially posed making them more rigid.

Lighting – No matter what type of photography, lighting is probably the most important element. In most instances a small flash will be sufficient. However, bigger family groups may require more lighting. Taking the photograph outside in natural light makes for an easier, less stressful shot.

Taking Control – It is paramount for the photographer to maintain control of the situation and communication is the key. Keep talking to your subjects making them understand what you want to do and need for them to do to make for a happy situation. If you have a really large group to photograph, then use a tripod and have someone act as your assistant.

Smile – Finally, there is nothing worse than a grumpy old photographer, so smile. That will put everyone else who has to take part, at ease. Have fun, act like you’re enjoying the process. It’s okay to crack a joke or two in order to get everyone to loosen up. And don’t be afraid to be creative. Think outside the box. The group can be a group without sitting down next to one another with another row standing at attention behind. Emphasize other items of “family-ness.” Play with it. Enjoy!