According to British psychologist Cliff Arnall, Blue Monday is the most depressing day of the year. The factors causing your low mood? The gloomy weather, post-holiday stress and wavering motivation to stick to your New Year’s resolutions.
As far back as three thousand years ago, the Mayans used sweat lodges to recover from stress and exposure to danger. Today, we still visit the sauna to combat stress. Did you know that one in three Finns have a sauna every week? And that, according to the World Happiness Report produced by the United Nations, they are the happiest people in the world?
A one-hour sauna session doesn’t only provide a moment of relaxation in a busy day, but seems to have a positive impact on your mental health too. It lowers your stress levels and the colours, for instance, also affect your mood in different ways. Red is stimulating, blue helps you relax, green is calming and yellow makes you happy.
Better night’s sleep
In the sauna, light hits your retina, stimulating your body to produce melatonin, a sleep hormone that helps you fall asleep more quickly and improves your quality of sleep. Regular sauna visits lower your cortisol levels, the body’s stress hormone.
To be able to cope better with the heat, your heart starts pumping faster. As a result of this increased circulation, you feel less pain, your body recovers better and you can relax more quickly. Because your body requires more energy to pump the blood around, your brain releases more endorphins, so you feel happier.
A study by Dr Jeffrey Lieberman also showed that people who have saunas experience a fast and strong anti-depressive effect, lasting for up to six weeks. Tiredness and anxiety are also reduced.
Another study of 2,300 men in Finland, which ran for 20 years, revealed that men who have a sauna four to seven times a week have 66% less chance of developing dementia than men who never have a sauna.
Finally, by sweating, you are detoxing i.e. you are flushing out quite a lot of toxins, such as cadmium, arsenic, lead and mercury, all heavy metals that have a negative effect on your brain and mental health.
So you see, going to the sauna is actually a natural antidepressant! What are you waiting for?