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What Is Tapping Therapy?

A woman uses tapping therapy on her hand.

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As the economic forecast grows increasingly stormy, a burgeoning sense of money troubles is likely making you review or rethink your financial plan. A piece of advice? De-stress before crunching the numbers. Stress and wise financial decision-making don’t mix. But, of course, that’s often easier said than done, especially if you haven’t found success with “traditional” stress relievers like meditation (it’s boring!), aromatherapy (it irritates your nose!), and exercise (it’s time-consuming!). What’s left? Try tapping therapy.

What is tapping therapy?

Tapping therapy, also known as Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), is a self-help therapeutic method that involves speaking positive affirmations and "negative-clearing statements" while tapping specific acupressure points. But wait. Where's the evidence that it works for stress relief?

Consider this 2013 systematic review published in Psychology, which highlighted numerous studies supporting EFT’s “robust ability” to reduce psychological distress, including stress. Or how about this recent 2020 randomized controlled trial (RCT) published in Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy, where researchers found that just one hour of tapping decreased participants’ stress hormone cortisol levels by a whopping 43%? Even better, it doesn’t just relieve stress for a short, fleeting while—there’s proof that its beneficial effects could last up to two years!

How does it work? 

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, acupressure points are the physical locations where Qi (i.e., your "life force energy") can be accessed. Accordingly, pressing these spots could help release blocked or congested Qi, relieving emotional distress. However, for those not entirely sold on the existence of meridian channels in the body, modern science has also proposed a few alternative theories:

  • Emotional processing regulation: Research shows that tapping therapy could induce neural changes in the brain structures most closely linked with emotions (e.g., the amygdala and medial prefrontal cortex)—improving participants’ ability to down-regulate stress.
  • Biomolecules release: Regardless of whether you believe in acupressure points, studies have found that pressing on these spots could release biomolecules that relieve pain or alter nerve activity, potentially changing an individual's perception and experience of stress.

How to get started with EFT tapping 

Considering the sizeable amount of evidence showing that it does work, the "how" may not matter as much. Here's a quick-start guide, to try it out and see if it’ll work for you:

Try to simply identify your negative feeling — (e.g., I feel stressed about money.)

Measure the intensity of this feeling, thought, or body sensation from 0-10 (e.g., I feel stressed about money, 9)

Gently tap on the Karate Chop point (the outer edge of the hand, opposite your thumb) while speaking aloud and repeating three times: "Even though I feel stressed, I deeply and completely accept myself.

Next, with three fingers, gently tap each point in the sequence below while speaking the same word (i.e., stressed) you acknowledged earlier: 

  • Top of head
  • Eyebrow point
  • Side of eye
  • Under eye
  • Under nose
  • Chin point
  • Collarbone
  • Under arm
After one round of tapping, stop and breathe. Then, measure (I feel stressed about money) again and repeat steps four and five until the intensity is as low as it will go.

Please note that you should replace “I feel stressed about money” with anything else that’s bothering you.

Psst: want more stress relief? Check out these articles: 

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