Happiness like all emotions is difficult to define but we all know it when we feel it. The goal of this blog is and always has been to help people discover joy and build lasting happiness by sharing powerful ideas from historical philosophers and thought leaders, discussing the latest scientific research, and by examining the lives of others so that we may emulate them as we forge our own path to happiness and wellbeing.
By now we have all come to recognize that physical and mental health play a large role in happiness. Optimal biological and neurological function leads to a healthier life, which gives us greater opportunity for experiencing happiness. By focusing on ways to improve our physical and mental health, we are to make ourselves happier. This post is about how to improve physical and mental health by using deliberate exposure to heat.
The research may not be entirely novel but it is fairly new to me and thus I wanted to share what I have learned about the power of heat. A number of recently published studies indicate a plethora of positive results from heat exposure that include improved hormone levels, elevated immunological function, and decreased stress.
Heat exposure has been linked to decreased incidence of CardioVascular disease as exposure to heat increases the heart rate and improves vascular health – the same responses we see from cardiovascular exercise. Increased levels of BDNF (Brain Derived Nootropic Factor) have been associated with regular heat exposure, leading to lower levels of depression and anxiety, as well as the prevention of neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. Heat exposure also was associated with an increase in growth hormone, improving metabolism and boosts energy.
Each of these factors facilitates greater happiness. Less cardiovascular and neurodegenerative disease means longer and healthier lives, less depression and anxiety means greater quality and enjoyment of life, and more energy and better metabolism means we are more engaged and better able to participate in the wonder of existence.
The methods and observations in the studies varied but generally speaking one could expect to see eugenic effects from hot tubs or saunas with as little as 1-2 sessions of 15-20 minutes a week. The best results appeared to occur when core body temperature was temporarily elevated to between 101-102 degrees Fahrenheit. Water temperatures were sufficient to do so at roughly 103 degrees Fahrenheit while sauna temperatures were typically in excess of 155 degrees.
This comes with the obvious caveat and warning to please use caution if you intend to adapt heat bathing into your wellness routine. Please consult a doctor or physician before engaging in such an activity to ensure that you are able to safely do so. Please also beware the warning signs such as dizziness, light headedness, extremely elevated heart rates and more. The logic behind this is to be exposed to heat long enough to elicit eugenic effects without causing harm.
I fully intend to incorporate several sauna sessions a week, when possible, so that I can ensure I am doing everything within my power to take control of my own wellbeing. Part of the beautiful thing about happiness is that it is largely correlated to biological factors and simple rules of science which we can leverage to improve our overall well-being.
Below are a sample of the sources where the claims in today’s article came from, all of which were introduced to me as a listener to the Hubermanlab Podcast.