HOW THE GENTLE SWAY OF A HAMMOCK SUPPORTS MENTAL HEALTH AND HELPS REDUCE STRESS
Letting go of the stresses of the day can be a challenge. Working a 9 to 5, commuting, and then trying to handle tasks and responsibilities at home adds up, there’s no question there. That’s why it’s so important to develop good mental health habits, letting go of stress when you get home. Easier said than done, though, right?
Thankfully, even if you’re having some trouble developing good habits, there are a few ways to get your body to unwind and relax. One of the best ways to do just that? Hang out in a hammock!
The gentle swing and sway of a hammock is widely regarded as one of the best ways to unwind, relax, and let the stresses of the day disappear, and not just by people looking to sell you a hammock! It all starts with your vestibular system.
WHAT IS THE VESTIBULAR SYSTEM?
So, what, exactly, is the vestibular system? Put simply, the vestibular system is your sense of balance. It’s how we determine spatial orientation and balance and it helps us coordinate our movements. The vestibular system comprises semicircular canals and otoliths* in your inner ear, which work in conjunction with our vision and hearing systems to help our mind orient up from down.
*Note: The otoliths in your ear are derived from small particles and helps us with our balance, gravity, and movement. Head movement stimulates your hair cells through inertia which then communicates with the nerves in your central nervous system to signal movement.
And what’s more, the vestibular system is what gives us that adrenaline rush (or woozy feeling) when we ride a roller coaster. This hints at its role in our mental health, too. These movements can have a stimulating, and in some cases soothing, effect on our bodies and minds. When we swing on a hammock, it engages our vestibular system, which is believed to help slow bursts of activity in the brain, letting us relax.
Studies have shown that rocking or swaying gently in a hammock can also help us fall asleep faster, encouraging a deeper state of sleep compared to a standard bed. This rocking motion can help increase the duration of stage N2 sleep, during which we experience a ton of rapid eye movement.
Think about how: how do you get a baby to fall asleep or calm down? You rock them gently. Think of a hammock as a grown-up version of the same. They soothe and relax our minds with a comforting motion.
HANGING OUT AND SWAYING IN A HAMMOCK CAN HELP YOUR MOOD
Hammocks have been used for insomnia, and for centuries, people in South and Central America have used them as their primary bed night after night. Beyond improving blood circulation and blood pressure, not to mention potential benefits for things as diverse as congestion and toxin buildup, hammocks also offer a clear, obvious benefit for mental health.
According to an article in Psychology Today, research shows that getting naps and good sleep in a hammock can be beneficial. A swaying bed can help you fall asleep faster and sleep more deeply. Perhaps, this is why many people who have had the experience of taking a nap in a hammock swear to a refreshing rest upon awakening. This research shows that there’s scientific support to the long-established belief that rocking soothes our sleep.
HAMMOCKS AS THERAPY FOR AUTISM IN CHILDREN
The vestibular system plays a significant role for a person with autism. This system balances us as we move and orientates us within our surroundings. Think about a time when you’ve woken up in an unfamiliar place (first morning on your vacation for example) – your vestibular system will use sensory perceptions to try and coordinate itself. This can often be stressful, especially for those who may have some form of vestibular dysfunction.
Hammocks are a special tool that help to soothe children and improves their balance. The natural swinging motion of a hammock is beneficial for those who have issues with their sensory system as it works to restore the vestibular system. Furthermore, the cocooning of the hammock around their body gives an added sense of security and comfort.
Hammock chairs – specifically Brazilian and Mayan hammock chairs – are ideal therapy tools for children with autism as the swinging motion is more prevalent than in a standard hammock.
Hammocks have also been used to treat symptoms in children who have ADD/ADHD and even Asperger’s.
TOP 5 MENTAL HEALTH BENEFITS OF A HAMMOCK
It’s easy to prioritize other things over your mental health. People often put off protecting and promoting good mental health habits. If you’re struggling to make time for a bit of much-needed self care, though, the answer might not be too far off.
Here are 5 of the top benefits to your mental health hammocks have to offer.
1 – BETTER SLEEP
As we mentioned above, gently rocking or swaying in a hammock is highly conducive to a good night’s sleep. It’s a time-tested technique, with a hammock offering the logical next step. A well-designed hammock adjusts and molds to your body perfectly while providing support, so you can relax and heal. After spending relaxed time in a hammock, you awake energized, refreshed, and ready to tackle the day.
2 – IMPROVES BLOOD CIRCULATION
Your upper body stays slightly elevated when you’re in a hammock. This allows for better blood circulation to your head, which can help clear frustrating congestion, improve blood pressure, and reduce toxin build-up in your body. You might even notice clearer skin!
3 – BETTER MENTAL FOCUS AND CONCENTRATION
This ties in closely with getting a better night’s sleep. When you’re well-rested, your brain has time to properly recharge and refocus itself. A good night’s sleep can do wonders for your productivity the next morning. But beyond that, the vestibular system’s processes help your mind focus itself, removing distractions.
4 – REDUCED PHYSICAL STRESS = IMPROVED MENTAL STATE
The aches and pains of the day can be quite literal. Have you ever had a particularly stressful day or week culminate in getting sick, or having to deal with a suddenly stiff set back? Your mental state directly affects your physical state! Headaches, upset stomachs, and even muscles can be caused by too much stress. Get rid of it with a hammock, metaphorically and literally! Hammocks have no pressure points, letting you truly relax and let go of aches and pains.
5 – REDUCE STRESS
All this adds up to reduced stress. Hammocks aren’t a magical band-aid fix for your mental health woes, but they are a wonderful escape and a great way to detach and focus on the here and now, instead of everything weighing you down. Consider curling up in a hammock with a good book, or put a record on to gently sway to. Grab a coffee, tea, beer, or glass of wine, and give yourself a break—you deserve it.
OTHER WAYS TO IMPROVE YOUR MENTAL HEALTH
Better mental health makes it easier to cope with the stresses of the day. While we all have our own strategies to stay healthy, such as exercising and maintaining a good diet, maintaining good mental health is often neglected until things get way off balance.
Thankfully, there are several, smaller things you can focus daily to help maintain your mental well-being, including:
- Value yourself and your time. Make time for the things you enjoy and the things that matter to you.
- Look after yourself physically. Take care of yourself by following a healthy diet and work on getting regular physical activity.
- Set up a good sleep schedule. Get enough sleep so the brain can repair and replenish brain cells.
- Check in with friends. Surround yourself with a strong support network and stay in touch, whether to vent or to simply catch up. Good friends go a long way.
- Develop your mental resiliency. How you respond to stress is just as important as your methods for mitigating it. If you find yourself getting anxious, focus on why, and develop strategies to help nip it in the bud.
- Be goal-oriented, within reason. Set realistic goals and work to accomplish them.
- Shake things up. Don’t be afraid to break out of your mold by trying new things.
- Enjoy yourself—in moderation. Keep alcohol consumption to a minimum, and avoid drugs.
- Don’t be embarrassed to reach out for help.