As I sit here typing I’m consuming more calories than usual. That’s because I’ve just had a sauna with Til. The effects of sauna are felt for hours after leaving which is a reason to go in of itself, however, the profound benefits are felt the decades to come. I’ve been sauna’ing for quite some time. One of my early jobs in-between uni semesters was cleaning a local leisure centre. I was good and quick at my job, which meant once the place was spotless I could use the use the gym, spa and sauna. All whilst my colleague smoked slim panatellas and read the classifieds. The effects of regular sauna are well documented with large studies in Finland pointing to reduced risk of CVD, improved insulin sensitivity, improved blood pressure, and lower risk from all-cause mortality. Not to mention the hormetic affect, leading to increased neural biogenesis, mitochondrial biogenesis and amplified immunity. My reasons are in-part to extend my health span but it’s largely because a sauna is a very familiar place.
It’s my time.
Irrespective of where I am in the world a sauna is always a sauna. It smell is the same in Sydney, Dubai, London, New York or Mumbai. And I love the physical and mental discomfort that comes with it. There’s no avoiding it. Beyond the 15 minute mark the urge to step outside builds which is where the resilience and the grind kicks-in.
This is where the gold is!
The reward for enduring discomfort is resilience. Resilience has utility in all scenarios, not just heat exposure! Life is difficult and at times tragic so arming yourself to be resilience (not impervious) is prudent. How we experience discomfort can vary but deliberating walking into it on a regular basis hardens your resolve.
I’ve talked a number of times about the release of the molecule dopamine when we step into the discomfort, this is very true for sauna use. It’ll take me 20-30 minutes to acclimatise to (perceived) homeostasis which is around the time I'll be bathed in a sense of euphoria, as well as improved mood, energy, sense of calm, and pain tolerance. Being exposured to extreme heat (or cold for that matter) puts our physiology into fight or flight. The benefits are adaptations to our nervous system, biochemistry and neurology…what's not to love about that!