If you’ve experienced any degree of depression or anxiety in the past pandemic year, you are not alone. In January 2021, a staggering 41 percent of adults reported symptoms of anxiety and/or depressive disorder, a number that has been largely stable since spring 2020. In a normal year, 4 percent of us suffer from persistent depression and general anxiety disorder.
May is the month designated to draw our attention to mental health awareness. Our mental health impacts everything–how we think, behave, and interact with the world and the people in our lives. It can skew our perspectives and hold us back from living our best lives. Taking care of your mental health goes beyond a “treat yourself” or “self-care” mentality. It encompasses a commitment to take time and make space to nurture your mind, and that has a ripple effect: when our brain is balanced, we have energy to take care of our bodies, and then in turn we have energy to be there for others.
Infrared therapy offers some hope as a holistic approach. Below we share 5 ways that infrared saunas can help bring light to the darkness of depression, anxiety, and even the simple daily drain on our emotions and mind.
How can regular infrared sauna sessions improve mental health?
We’ll explore five modes that allow infrared sauna to impact the mind and body:
- Heat — Relieves depressive symptoms
- Meditation — Benefits of quiet and mindfulness in an insulated space
- Sound — Vibration helps calm and balance the body
- Chromotherapy — Balancing effects of color
- Expanded Wellness Practice — Going beyond focus on the physical body to include mental health
1. Relieves symptoms of depression
“Heat makes the brain happy,” says Dr. Charles Raison, who conducted a 2016 study on hyperthermia to treat depression, published in the Journal of American Medicine. The University of Wisconsin Madison trial used infrared light to raise core body temperature to 101.3 degrees and found that raising the body temperature of depressed volunteers to the equivalent of a mild fever improved their symptoms of major depression for as long as six weeks after a single treatment.
“We think that using heat to stimulate the skin activates serotonin-producing cells in the mid-brain, which then produce a change in how the brain functions.” Low levels of the neurotransmitter, serotonin, are linked to depression. The unique heat in an infrared sauna session is more than a good sweat session. Sunlighten’s infrared is clinically proven to safely raise core temperature three degrees, offering healing at the cellular level and positively affecting mental well-being.
2. Provides a time and place for meditation
Meditation offers innumerable health benefits including reducing stress, decreasing anxiety, and promoting emotional health. Infrared saunas are sanctuaries of peace and quiet, and the perfect time and place to meditate. Studies have shown that regular meditation practice reduces the inflammation response stress causes by decreasing levels of stress-induced cytokine chemicals that can affect mood and lead to depression.
Relaxing and clearing the mind helps us to be present and lower our normal fast-paced rhythm. Deep breathing and meditation also help trigger the vagus nerve, which is connected to our gut and digestion as well as our parasympathetic nervous system that tells us all is well with the world and we can settle down. It elicits a powerful calming effect. Stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system provides a healthy counterbalance to the work of the sympathetic nervous system, which triggers our fight or flight response common in our constant daily rush. Practicing meditation during a 45-minute sauna session can benefit your mental health.
3. Evokes calm and balance when paired with sound therapy
Have you ever heard a song that made your heart skip a beat? Does the sound of a loved one’s voice elicit an emotion? Sound healing therapy dates to ancient Greece when music was used to help cure mental disorders. It’s based on the tenet that our world is full of vibratory properties, and if those vibrations are out of step, then so are our bodies.
Sound is carried to us in different wavelengths and frequencies that affect us in both beautiful and cringe-worthy ways. Music therapy offers many forms of sound therapy. Brainwave entertainment known as binaural beats stimulates the brain into a specific state using pulsing sound to align brain waves to beat frequency. Though more research is needed, one study suggested many benefits including enhanced relaxation and reduced anxiety.
Sunlighten offers a sauna accessory add-on called Acoustic Resonance Therapy (A.R.T.) by So Sound® in all cabin saunas. Sound-amplifying discs mounted under the seat utilize sound as a therapy modality that can induce a calming effect. A combination of calming music and healing vibration move through the body and mind, so your body absorbs the vibration you also hear. SoSound research showed that after just 10 minutes with A.R.T., brain waves were calmer and more balanced.
4. Balances the body and mind when paired with chromotherapy
Chromotherapy is an alternative approach based on the long-held idea that the specific vibrations and frequency of light can impact the body in positive and healing ways. The theory holds that specific vibratory qualities of colors can impact specific organs and therefore specific diseases. The concept that color and light can bring about healing has been around for centuries. With built-in chromotherapy lighting, Sunlighten saunas provide a variety of carefully selected colors to alleviate anxiety and calm the nervous system, especially blue and violet.
5. Elevates an existing wellness routine to the next level
Eating healthy, exercising, and getting regular rest create a strong foundation for health and wellness. Adding infrared sauna sessions to your existing routine can help you move toward another level of energy and health. Infrared saunas are proven to help reduce stress and inflammation. Many of us carry toxins and heavy metals from our skincare products and food that we aren’t even aware of. If you already have an established wellness practice, infrared sauna can help integrate a mental wellness practice. Mental health and our bodily health are intertwined. You’ll find yourself wanting to schedule time to place yourself in the beautiful sanctuary of a sauna with the enjoyable and effective infrared heat benefits for both your body and your mind.
 National Center for Health Statistics National Health Interview Survey Early Release Program and U.S. Census Bureau Household Pulse Survey, January 2021
 “Facts & Statistics: Anxiety and Depression Association of America, ADAA.” Facts & Statistics | Anxiety and Depression Association of America, ADAA. Accessed April 22, 2021. https://adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/facts-statistics.
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