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Could the endorphin rush begin even before our first sauna round?

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We sauna enthusiasts understand the endorphin build up as a (great) big part of our sauna experience.

As we settle onto the sauna bench for round one, and begin to experience the sauna hot room, our heart rate goes up and many of us feel a “rush of adrenalin” akin to exercise or being chased by the cops.

Then, during cool down, after a plunge into a cold lake or a 360 degree turn under our backyard showers, we often look up at the sky and the trees and are overcome with a wave of good feeling: the endorphin rush of “ahhhhhhh, I feel great!”

But just like a child building up for Christmas morning, for many of us, the endorphin rush of sauna begins while our clothes are still on.  The excitement of sauna can start the morning before our sauna session, and can build to a crazy frenzy while the sauna stove heats to temp.

Exhibit A: Check out this guy:

Golf season is over.  It is now sauna season.

Is it time for your own authentic sauna, so you can get just as crazy as us?


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5 thoughts on “Could the endorphin rush begin even before our first sauna round?”

  1. Lots of stories in the news this week about dopamine fasting and benefits to mental well being. Do you think sauna fits with dopamine fasting, or the oppsite?

  2. Mike: It’s a funny thing as i’ve been taking saunas (2-3 hr. sessions with cold ass serious cold plunging cool downs) three times a week for over 30 years. I don’t know about dopamine fasting, but I do know that sauna has providing me a powerfully complete laundry list of personal mental well being.

    There are some good philosophies relative to sauna, like my buddy Tom’s line about his first beer when taking a sauna, which is most often right after round 2, during cool down, as he says: “you have to earn it.”

    This is probably a form of dopamine fasting.

    Just because a nICE cold beer and a nICE mug may be calling for your outside your changing room, doesn’t mean that you’d be best to consume it before round 1 (Because then what? More beer!).

    And probably unrelated, I appreciate the metaphor and connection of firewood management when it comes to tending our wood stoves, as it could be analogous to moderating other things in our lives, like diet, shopping, screen time, etc.

    Hope this helps, and welcome further dialogue along these lines, maybe even a guest post if you want to tackle.

    As we navigate down the roads of managing restraint in a world of abundance, zen and the art of sauna maintenance may in fact be a part of this dopamine fasting thing.

  3. Thanks, Glenn. I don’t know much about dopamine fasting, but the quiet, serene, phone-free time in a sauna makes me think there’s a connection. Here’s a little summary from

    “The hot new Silicon Valley fad isn’t an app or gadget — it’s actually a “fast”… from tech, of all things. They call it “dopamine fasting,” an allotted period of time in which you abstain from certain pleasurable activities that trigger a strong dopamine release. And for many people, scrolling through social media looking for “likes” or staring at their phone waiting for texts to come in definitely counts as a trigger. The idea is that “fasting” (instead of bingeing) on dopamine gives your brain a chance to rest and rewire — so that everything from your focus to your productivity gets a reboot… A common misunderstanding about dopamine is that it’s about pleasure — the idea that when you do something pleasurable, that pleasure is caused by a burst of dopamine. But that’s not what it does. Dopamine is all about expecting a reward.”
    This means that you can’t just turn off your phone or avoid social media for a weekend (or longer) and “deplete” your dopamine levels. “If one turns everything off and spends a day in a relaxing, non-stimulating environment, that’s a good de-stressor. However, it won’t have the full effect unless you aren’t thinking about future goals and rewards,” Kounios continues. That’s why he recommends using your “fast” to deliberately partake in activities that aren’t centered in reward-thinking. This could be meditation, creating art or journaling, taking a casual walk in the park — anything that brings you into present-moment awareness instead of focusing your attention on what’s to come or what you can potentially get out of the task. Essentially, “a dopamine reset helps a person to stop and smell the roses,” Kounios concludes.

    The present-moment awareness aspect makes me think that sauna, in many phases, fits the bill. But then I wonder if the endorphin rush and thinking about the cool-down are “rewards” in the way of thinking described above. I’d be happy to do a guest post if I knew anything about it, but was more just looking to bring this idea into the discussion to see what others think.

  4. Mike: re: “The present-moment awareness aspect makes me think that sauna, in many phases, fits the bill. But then I wonder if the endorphin rush and thinking about the cool-down are “rewards”…”

    Well, I think that’s fucking awesome.

    The guide path towards present moment awareness is “optimized” whilst sitting on the upper bench at 180f or cooling down in a crisp cold lake, as during these moments of temperature extremes, it is hard not to be thinking of anything else besides the present moment. Much like during meditation or “flow state thinking,” our focus and intention can’t help but be in the moment. Those well in tune to their bodies, accepting the voluntary stress of heat/cold, work themselves into an euphoric endorphin rush frenzy: controlled, yet powerful between our sauna rounds.

    Like yoga, meditation, Wim Hof Method, hitting the right spot while chopping firewood, carrying water, and even taking out the garbage, we get better at these things through practice and becoming comfortable in the practice, i.e.: being present in that moment, while not trying to overthink or get all esoteric and shit: but just being. Social media posts and groups and likes are indeed a challenge to being present.

    My experience is that it’s wonderfully freeing, time to time, to reassess one’s relationship (and freedom of) the social media and smart phone noise, and all we may think it may be cracked up to try to be. Hit like if you agree. Jk.

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