Your Mental Health?
Learn The Discoveries Scientists Are Finding Out About Infrared Therapy
By: Your JNH Lifestylist
Until relatively recently, mental health was a taboo subject at any gathering. However, in the last couple of years, people have started to talk more about it since it is something that affects us all. Physical health, like how important it is to eat well and exercise, is often talked about; however, part of being healthy is having good mental health as well. We are not our bodies, our minds are important too and we must take care of both equally. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders affect around 40 million adults in the United States. This number is extremely high, representing 18.1% of the adult population .
Anything we can do to improve our mental health is great, and one form of therapy that's been getting a lot of attention lately is infrared therapy. In this article, you will find everything you need to know about this new trend in wellness and how it can potentially improve your mental health.
What Are Infrared Saunas?
Infrared saunas use infrared light, which is not visible to the human eye, to heat your body. This type of light has a specific wavelength that can penetrate your skin and other tissues, transferring energy in the form of heat. Through infrared heat treatment (infrared therapy), you get all the same benefits that you would get from a traditional sauna, plus the medicinal effects of infrared; which has been studied around the world for its many applications .
Now, How Can This Improve Your Mental Health?
At first, the benefits associated with infrared saunas had to do mostly with weight loss, improving skin complexion and detoxifying. However, as time went by, researchers found out new effects this wavelength has on different systems of the body. Infrared has specific effects on a cellular level and in this article, we will center around the neuron which is the basic cell of the nervous system.
Infrared stimulates a specific part of the neuron: the mitochondria. The mitochondria are the part of the cell that produces all the energy that is used for every cell function. By stimulating the mitochondria, cells ends up producing more energy which is used in chemical reactions and metabolism. Infrared light has also been shown to promote neurogenesis, which is the process by which new neurons are formed . These specific effects are the response from infrared waves you'd receive from an infrared sauna, potentially having a positive impact on your mental health.
Infrared Saunas And Depression
The effects of infrared on depression have been widely studied lately. Some psychiatrists believe that one of the causes of depression is a disorder in brain metabolism, where not enough energy is produced for it to function properly. As previously stated, infrared light stimulates mitochondria, so this boost might be what is needed for this disorder in brain metabolism to be reverted .
This isn't just some theory since several studies with actual patients have analyzed the relationship between depression and exposure to infrared therapy. The results have been encouraging, with significant improvement in mood and other symptoms such as appetite and attention [3, 5]
Infrared therapy has also shown promise in the treatment of anxiety. This is heartening since anxiety is the most common mental disorder, with a large portion of people not being treated. In some cases, people refuse to take medication for personal reasons, so infrared treatment could be helpful for those particular patients. One study published in 2015 reported an improvement in anxiety symptoms 2 weeks after a single treatment with infrared therapy . However, other studies have reported that the key to this anxiolytic effect is in being constantly exposed to it. So regular infrared sauna sessions would be ideal if you are trying to cope with anxiety .
Infrared Saunas Just Makes You Feel Better
Some of the benefits of infrared saunas come from the fact that they raise your body temperature. It has been proven that by partaking in infrared sessions, chemicals called endorphins are released by your body. These chemicals have a role in improving your mood and making you feel happy. They are responsible for the so-called "runner's high", and with an infrared sauna, you can attain the same feeling. By having a session in the morning, you are bound to have an excellent day .
The benefits infrared saunas have on mental health are amazing and are slowly but surely being proven through academic research. As always, remember to consult a doctor before starting any type of treatment, even if it's something as simple as an infrared sauna.
 "Facts & Statistics." Adaa.org, Anxiety and Depression Association of America, https://adaa.org/about-adaa/press-room/facts-statistics.
 Vatansever Fatma, Hamblin Michael R. (2012) "Far infrared radiation (FIR): its biological effects and medical applications." Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov, National Center For Biotechnology Information, October 16 2012, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3699878/.
 Cassano Paolo, Cusin Cristina, Mischoulon David, Hamblin Michael, De Taboada Luis, Pisoni Angela, Chang Trina, Yeung Albert, Ionescu Dawn, Petrie Samuel, Nierenberg Andrew, Fava Maurizio, Iosifescu Dan. (2015). "Near-Infrared Transcranial Radiation for Major Depressive Disorder: Proof of Concept Study." Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov, National Center for Biotechnological Information, August 19 2015, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4556873/.
 Cahill Kay. (2019). "Depression Research Focuses on Infrared Light." Giving.massgeneral.org, Massachusetts General hospital, 2019, https://giving.massgeneral.org/infrared-light-depression-research/.
 Schiffer Fredric, Johnston Andrea, Ravichandran Caitlin, Polcari Ann, Teicher Martin, Webb Robert, Hamblin Michael. (2009). "Psychological effects 2 and 4 weeks after a single treatment with near infrared light to the forehead: a pilot study of 10 patients with major depression and anxiety." Biomedcentral.com, Bio Med Dentral, December 8, 2009, https://behavioralandbrainfunctions.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1744-9081-5-46.
 Hamblin Michael. (2016). "Shining light on the head: Photobiomodulation for brain disorders." Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov, National Center for Biotechnological Information, October 1, 2016, https://behavioralandbrainfunctions.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1744-9081-5-46.
 Tanaka Y, Akiyoshi J, Kawahara Y, Ishitobi Y, Hatano K, Hoaki N, Mori A, Goto S, Tsuru J, Matsushita H, Hanada H, Kodama K, Isogawa K, Kitamura H, Fujikura Y. (2011). "Infrared radiation has potential antidepressant and anxiolytic effects in animal model of depression and anxiety." Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov, National Center for Biotechnological Information, April 2011, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21511206.
 Kukkonen-Harjula K, Oja P, Laustiola K, Vuori I, Jolkkonen J, Siitonen S, Vapaatalo H. (1989). "Haemodynamic and hormonal responses to heat exposure in a Finnish sauna bath." Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov, National Center for Biotechnological Information, 1989, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2759081.