Our nerves are exhausted in our current climate of uncertainty, anxiety, and precaution. You may not even notice triggers that launch your body’s responses for defense as we navigate life. Routine chores sometimes feel mind-numbingly dull, and waking up for work can feel mentally and physically unbearable. Nearly everyone will experience heightened anxiety or depression throughout their life. This is completely within reason, as the society we live in today has no mercy on our bodies and minds.
Various tools can ensure our minds and bodies are receiving the attention and care needed to stay strong and functioning. That may come from walking outside, reading a good book, or making phone calls to friends and family. Most importantly, we have to recognize that our situation is temporary. Our emotions and responses are part of our temporary state; acknowledge them without feeling guilty or ashamed.
Remarkably, saunas can also be used to combat mild depression. Hyperthermia (increasing the body’s temperature with extreme heat conditions) has been studied for its effect on those with mild depression. Sauna bathing is highly beneficial for those with an inflammatory disease as it improves blood circulation and decreases inflammation. Many people with inflammatory diseases also experience depression. By treating the inflammation, they experience reduced systems and improved mood.
One study treated mildly depressed patients with 20 minutes of heat therapy five times a week. After four weeks, subjects reported increased appetite, improved mood, higher levels of relaxation, and decreased complaints of other ailments.
The science behind the sauna’s success at fighting depression is that when our bodies are subjected to intense heat, we ignite multiple responses to protect ourselves. Our endocrine system launches opioids as part of the pain-killing response to match our discomfort. That response can initiate relaxation and improve mood. Now, it is not lost on us that the sauna use response is similar to the physiological response we experience with mild to moderate exercise. Those who exercise regularly can always attest to its ability to boost mood and improve mental health. However, sauna use can be readily available to those unable to exercise or those wishing to prolong the benefits of exercise and increase performance.