Infrared Sauna and Seasonal Affective Disorder

by Lindsay Kirby

“Look on the bright side” for assistance with seasonal mood disorders.

Imagine yourself lying in the sun completely relaxed. Feel the sun’s rays soothing your skin and infusing your body with warmth.   You are basking in the sun, happy and content.

Have you ever wondered why we use the term basking in the sun to imply we are happy?  Well, not only do we inherently correlate the sun with happiness–science is actually proving that the sun does make us happier.

Unfortunately, basking in the sun in 2020 was a real struggle.  Not only have we been quarantining before and throughout the summer, we’ve also experienced the compound effect of having less sun during the summer months because of those darn smoke-filled weeks that we’ve had for several years in a row.  This adds to our lack of sun exposure and increasing our risk of suffering from Seasonal Affect Disorder (SAD).  

There is still much not understood about SAD, but it is believed to be linked to reduced sun exposure.  Many of us experience decreased mood and outlook in the winter.  The sun’s schedule is out of our control as is so much in our life during these times, but fortunately science has been able to isolate the wavelengths that are believed to supply that happier, more upbeat benefit:

infrared wavelengths.

The sun has many types of rays, and infrared wavelengths are the GOOD ones which, when isolated, have been shown to provide many positive health benefits without the negative risks that UV rays bring.  Infrared wavelengths are a wonderful and effective way of accessing only the positive benefits of the sun’s rays and harnessing the good, mood boosting benefits the sun provides.  Infrared saunas emit far, near and mid infrared wavelengths that we cannot see but that our cells LOVE for energy production and that enhance our mood and outlook.  One study showed that people reported improved mood ratings following near infrared exposure and that it didn’t just last a few hours after the infrared sauna session but for 6 weeks! 

If you, too, find yourself feeling more down during the winter, an infrared sauna session can be a wonderful, safe and effective experience that you can add into your routine.  And, bonus—infrared not only has been shown to boost mood, it also brings other positive side effects: promotes healthy skin, improves circulation, detoxifies, promotes cardiovascular health, reduces inflammation, provides immune system support, enhances weight loss, and more! 

There are a few different types of infrared wavelengths, and I suggest that you find an infrared therapy that provides all three: near, far, and mid.  Each wavelength has different benefits, and it isn’t understood yet which infrared is the most beneficial for mood and energy-and they all three are so great so why not maximize your time spent receiving full spectrum infrared exposure.

Understand that “hotter isn’t better” when it comes to the health benefits of infrared.   This is a common misconception we go over with our clients at Sculpt Wellness when they begin.  I estimate 85% of our clients do not sweat during their first 30-45-minute Infrared Sauna session which is ok!  The most beneficial session for mood and health is when you find it comfortably warm and easy to breathe.  Embrace relaxing and enjoy being warmed up from the inside out as the cells in your body are soaking up mood-boosting energy.   As you are infused with the happy rays, you can also release toxins.  We are designed to use the sun to detox, and it has been proven that infrared promotes 7-10 times greater detoxification than steam sauna or exercise sweating –thus also detoxifying you from the inside out (remember those smoky days we breathed in?).

Try six 30-40 minute sessions in a month as a goal for best benefit.  Consult your physician if you have any health conditions or are unsure.  Infrared therapy is a way to help combat this time of year’s impact on mood–try happiness in a sauna if you too find yourself struggling.  I hope 2021 is your year to bask in the sun,

Lindsay Kirby