SAUNAS & MENTAL HEALTH: DOES SAUNA HELP WITH ANXIETY?
Regular, everyday stress can make you feel awful, of course. But it can also be really harmful to your body, resulting in digestive issues, weakening your immune system, increasing your risk for heart attack and diabetes, and accelerating the aging process, per Healthline.
While there are several ways to improve your mental health, one age-old method that has gained popularity in recent times is sauna bathing.
As surprising as it may seem, spending time in a sauna can significantly impact your mental health, especially when coping with work-related stress or anxiety.
In this article, we will delve into the science behind saunas, explore their various mental health benefits, and provide some tips on maximizing the positive effects of this ancient practice.
Anxiety is a natural stress response and can actually be beneficial in some situations, such as pushing us to perform better under pressure or keeping us alert in potentially dangerous situations.
When it becomes chronic and excessive, however, anxiety can interfere with your daily life, resulting in several mental health issues. The symptoms of anxiety can manifest in multiple ways, including:
Emotional symptoms: excessive worry, irritability, restlessness, and a sense of impending doom.
Cognitive symptoms: racing thoughts, difficulty concentrating, and negative thought patterns.
Physical symptoms: rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, muscle tension, sweating, trembling, and fatigue.
Whether you're suffering from a generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, or post-traumatic stress disorder, it can create havoc on your mental health.
Research shows excessive anxiety can lead to depression, insomnia, substance abuse, or other behavioral issues.
The good news is that there are numerous ways to treat anxiety disorders, and many of them can be done on your own or with the help of a therapist. While medications and therapy are often effective, they don't work for everyone.
If you don't want to take medications and are looking for an alternative approach, consider sauna bathing.
Mental Health Benefits of Sauna Use
Saunas have been a widespread holistic practice for centuries. While the physical health benefits of sauna therapy are well known, from relieving pain to improving immunity and skin health, the heat from sauna baths can also profoundly affect mental health.
Whether you're stressed about an upcoming test, a presentation at work, or an argument with your spouse, it's easy to get overwhelmed.
In fact, the American Psychiatric Association notes that many people experience chronic stress that can have a detrimental effect on their health if not managed properly. Fortunately, sauna bathing can help.
When you spend time in a sauna, the heat can work wonders on your cortisol levels, the primary stress hormone in the body. Studies show that as your body temperature rises, cortisol levels drop, relaxing tense muscles and calming your mind.
Sauna therapy has also been proven to affect your brain directly. Regular sauna bathing can increase brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a protein scientifically studied to help against stress-induced neuronal damage. So, the more time you spend in a sauna, the better your brain will be able to cope with stress.
The act of sauna bathing can also be a form of mindfulness meditation, encouraging you to slow down, focus on your breath, and be more present in the moment.
Enhance Mood and Relieve Anxiety
Although mood swings are a natural part of the human experience, they can become overwhelming and challenging to manage at times. This is where sauna therapy comes in!
Sauna bathing acts as a natural antidepressant. Research shows that the heat from a sauna (such as this Almost Heaven Barrel Sauna) can increase your body temperature, dilating your blood vessels and increasing your heart rate. This, in turn, triggers the release of endorphins, aka the “feel-good” hormones.
Cleveland Clinic notes that endorphins can create a sense of euphoria, promoting feelings of happiness and well-being.
Improve Mental Clarity
We’ve all been there, feeling like we're stuck in a rut, unable to think clearly. A sauna session can help restore your mental clarity, leaving you feeling refreshed and energized.
The heat from a sauna, like the Almost Heaven Madison Sauna, can expand your blood vessels, improving blood flow and cellular oxygenation to your brain. This can help you stay more alert and focused, ready to tackle any challenges that come your way.
Does Sauna Help With Anxiety: Tips for Using Sauna Safely
Consider following these tips to use sauna therapy for anxiety safely:
Consult your doctor: Before using a sauna, ensure that you don't have any medical conditions that may be exacerbated by heat exposure. If you're pregnant or have heart or respiratory problems, consult your doctor before using a sauna.
Choose the proper sauna: There are two main types of saunas – traditional (dry) saunas (such as the Almost Heaven Hillsboro Sauna) and steam (wet) saunas. Both can help manage stress and relieve anxiety, but your preference might dictate which type you find more relaxing.
Set the temperature: Sauna temperatures can range from 150°F to 195°F (65°C to 90°C). Start at a lower temperature and gradually increase it as you become more comfortable.
Prepare yourself: Before entering the sauna, quickly shower to remove dirt or sweat from your skin.
Time your session: Limit your sauna sessions to 15-20 minutes, especially if you're a beginner. Prolonged exposure to heat may cause dehydration or other health issues. You can gradually increase the time as you get used to the process.
Focus on your breathing: While in the sauna, practice breathing exercises to help calm your mind and release tension. Inhale slowly through your nose, filling your lungs, and exhale through your mouth. This will help relax your body and reduce anxiety.
Use visualization or meditation techniques: Use your time in the sauna to visualize calming scenes or practice mindfulness meditation. By focusing on the present moment and letting go of anxious thoughts, you'll help enhance the stress-relieving benefits of the sauna.
Make sure you’re hydrated: Since you sweat in a sauna, it can lead to dehydration. So make sure you drink plenty of water before, during, and after your session. Dehydration may exacerbate anxiety symptoms, so staying hydrated is crucial.
Cool down gradually: After your sauna session, allow your body to cool down gradually. Cooling down too quickly may cause lightheadedness or discomfort. To avoid any potential side effects, take a lukewarm shower afterward to help lower your body temperature gradually.
Does Sauna Help With Anxiety: The Takeaway
When used with meditation and other relaxation techniques, sauna bathing can be an incredible way to calm your mind, de-stress, and even help with severe mental health issues like depression and PTSD. As seen in the article above, benefits of sauna therapy have been well-documented, making it a great option for individuals seeking holistic methods for anxiety relief. Incorporating sauna sessions into a regular routine, along with mindfulness practices and other self-care, can maximize the positive effects on mental health. Please keep in mind, if you have severe stress and anxiety, always consult a mental healthcare professional.
To fully reap the benefits of using a sauna to relieve anxiety, aim for at least 2-3 sessions per week, depending on your comfort level and schedule. Prioritize safety by following recommended guidelines, hydrating properly, and cooling down sufficiently.
By embracing sauna therapy as a tool for anxiety management, individuals can potentially experience increased tranquility and overall mental well-being.