infrared sauna
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How to Use Heat, Light & Sweat to Improve Your Mental Health

Dr. Caroline Leaf – If you have been following me for a while, you will know how much I love my infrared sauna from Sunlighten! It is an integral part of my mental and physical health regimen, my favorite place to do brain research and detox my mind, and something I cannot live without. In this week’s blog and podcast, Connie, the founder of Sunlighten Saunas, joins me to discuss why infrared heat is so good for us and why it makes us feel so good, the difference between infrared and conventional saunas, the best way to use an infrared sauna, common mistakes we make when using infrared saunas, infrared saunas and children, the incredible science behind Sunlighten’s saunas, and so much more. 

What is an infrared sauna? The light spectrum in an infrared sauna comes from the sun. It heats the body directly, whereas a conventional sauna only heats the air around the body. Although any kind of heat in a sauna can be good for us, infrared heat directly impacts our health, working naturally with our body to supercharge our cells without tiring us out or draining us. This allows for maximum detoxification and purification; in fact, an infrared sauna is seven times more effective than a conventional sauna at getting rid of toxins in the brain and body!

There are many benefits to an infrared sauna, including:

1. Detoxification.

An infrared sauna can help detox the brain and body, right down to the level of our cells. This helps us get rid of impurities like heavy metals, which can impact our mental and physical health. In an infrared sauna, your body is sweating in a relaxed state, and can excrete more toxins and heal and repair itself. This is because infrared heat can reach the toxins that are surrounded by a protective layer of fat deep in the body, pulling out those substances you don’t normally get rid of by sweating in a conventional sauna or by going to the bathroom.

Even if you avoid smoking, eat well, exercise regularly, practice mindfulness, use natural products and sleep well every night, you will be exposed to toxins that your body will store in a protective layer of fat. We all have bad stuff in our bodies, which is why it is essential that we take the time to detox our brains and bodies if we want to live a truly healthy lifestyle, and infrared saunas can help with this.

2. Heart health and circulation.

As the heat in an infrared sauna heats your core up, your body has to work harder to cool you down, which improves your circulation and boosts your heart health. Better circulation, in turn, can clear your mind and help you process information faster, lower blood pressure, give your skin a gorgeous glow, help with pain relief, reduce inflammation, give you more energy, boost your metabolism, aid recovery and more. Instead of getting out of the sauna and feeling worn out, you will feel more energized, healthier and ready to take on any challenge!

3. Immunity.

During a global pandemic, we should all be doing what we can to boost our immune systems, and an infrared sauna can help us do this. The energy from infrared saunas is absorbed on a cellular level, which positively affects the heat-shock proteins that strengthen the immune system. This not only boosts the immune system, but also helps free up the body to deal with any other health issues we may have.

4. Pain relief, recovery and aging.

Better blood circulation from infrared light means more toxins flow from the cellular level to the skin’s surface to improve cell health, aiding in muscle recovery and joint pain, which can be a big help after an intense workout, a physical accident or with conditions like arthritis or fibromyalgia. Near infrared waves in particular have a shorter frequency range and penetrate the epidermis layer of the skin, impacting the body at the cellular level, encouraging tissue growth and collagen production, helping with the negative effects of ageing and speeding up muscle recovery.

5. Mental health.

Not only do saunas help us relax, which is certainly important for our mental health, but research on infrared saunas has also shown that it can have positive effects on our mood, helping with depression, anxiety and other types of mental distress. Just one infrared sauna treatment can potentially reduce depressive symptoms by up to 50%, with the benefits continuing for up to 6 weeks, while regular sessions in an infrared sauna can reduce cortisol levels, helping with toxic stress and burnout, and increase our clarity of mind and focus.

I personally love using my Switch app to detox my thoughts while I am detoxing my brain and body in my sauna—this is a perfect mental self-care cleanse, like a spa day for the mind! It is a great tool for helping you learn how to manage your mind, deal with the roots of your mental chaos, and overcome negative thought patterns and behaviors that impact your mental health through the mental process of reconceptualization (it is now on sale at 50% off for a 3-month subscription), and can easily be a part of any infrared sauna session since it only takes 7-15 minutes a day!

I also love to use my Sunlighten sauna to have “thinker moments”, where I just switch off and let my mind wander and daydream. These moments give the brain a rest and allow it to reboot and heal, which increases clarity of thought and organizes the networks of the brain, rather than just letting toxic mindsets build up in the brain and cause all sorts of mental health issues. (For more information on thinker moments and how to make them a part of your daily routine, see my book, Think, Learn, Succeed)

6. Safe for children.

Even children can use infrared saunas! However, they should only be allowed to use the sauna at a lower temperature, for no more than 15 minutes (depending on their age) and accompanied with an adult, as they have a higher metabolic rate per body mass, limited circulatory adaptation to increased cardiac demands, and the inability to regulate body temperature by sweating.

When it comes to using an infrared sauna, consistency and frequency are key. Even though it has all these great health benefits, it is important to remember that an infrared sauna is not a magic bullet or cure-all. It strengthens the brain and body over time, harnessing your natural power and helping you feel stronger and healthier than you did before.

When using an infrared sauna, you also need to listen to your body and focus on your unique needs. Many experts recommend around forty minutes a day if you are an adult, depending on your health history and what program and type of sauna you are using. When you choose to use a sauna is up to you and what you are looking for. I personally avoid using my infrared sauna too late at night because it keeps me awake, unless I need to stay awake to work on a new book or research deadline!

It is, however, important to note that not all infrared saunas are created equal. There are three different parts of the infrared light spectrum, and each of which have different effects on the body and our health. Many infrared saunas don’t use all three types of infrared light, or don’t use them in an effective way or in the right frequency with the right materials and deliverability.

This is why I love Sunlighten Saunas. They focus on the science behind their unique technology, always searching out the safest and most effective way to help provide optimum infrared light frequency and results, as well as creating non-toxic and sustainable products using high-quality materials that are safe and long-lasting. After using my infrared sauna regularly for several years, I can truly say I am impressed with the results. I am in my fifties and feel younger, healthier and happier than ever. It really is my “secret” weapon when it comes to my mental and physical health!

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