James Holloway, co-founder of Clearfocus Training – a mental health and communications training provider based in Exeter – gives his take on spas and why this increasingly popular form of relaxation is so beneficial to people’s mental wellbeing.
When the tirade of chaotic children and long work hours get too much, and your blood pressure hits scary highs, many of us choose to unwind at a spa. To pamper enthusiasts, a sauna, steam, and jacuzzi session, blissfully wrapped up with a hot stone massage, is tantamount to heaven. A paradise within which to escape the daily grind, even if for a weekend or a couple of hours.
But the benefits of a good spa extend well beyond the massage table.
Keeping up with the pace of modern life can be exhausting. As time goes on, the equilibrium between work and life is losing sync and more and more people are finding themselves engulfed by career, family, and financial demands.
The harsh reality is that 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health condition at some point in their lives. Any spare hours are often construed as ‘free’ time instead of ‘me’ time - an opportunity to catch up on housework or sort out paperwork. This constant urge to push ourselves beyond our limits is a huge contributor to this statistic.
Here’s the thing - it really is okay to cut yourself some slack. When you look after yourself, it trickles down to those around you. You’ll also feel happier and healthier in yourself.
Studies conducted around the world have linked spas to improved physical health, better sleep, reduced work absenteeism and a healthier quality of life in general. Allowing yourself an opportunity to relax and unwind is only part of the journey, but there is more than one reason why people leave a spa feeling brand new.
When we get stressed, our blood pressure shoots up. Hot tubs, saunas and steam rooms raise our core body temperature, in turn dilating our blood vessels and enabling our blood to travel with less restriction. A mere 20 minutes in a hot tub has been proven to reduce high blood pressure and muscle tension.
Endorphins are the ‘feel good’ chemicals that flood our body when we exercise, eat chocolate and drink just the right amount of wine. But hydrotherapy and massages are also a fantastic way to get endorphins flowing. At the same time, both treatments relieve muscle tension from our neck all the way down to our feet. Relaxation + endorphins = maximum happiness.
Spas have been specifically designed to cure the various ailments that come from life’s stresses. The heat from a hot tub, for example, is a fantastic remedy for aches and pains, and relief from conditions such as arthritis. Everything from massages, which improve circulation and relieve tension, to mud baths, which exfoliate the skin, exists to leave guests feeling completely rejuvenated.
There are many parts of our body that interact with our brains, for example our liver, gut, and brain. When we’re stressed and anxious, our brains send stress-laden chemicals to the other two organs. This sends our bodies into flight or fight mode. Spa treatments can help us to fully relax, helping us to digest properly and improving overall wellbeing.
What’s truly revolutionary about spa days when it comes to mental wellbeing is that the wellbeing continues long after the treatment is over. Instead of a quick hit of relaxation before you go back to the stress of your everyday life, spa treatments can actively help and shape your mental health even after you leave.
Mindfulness is becoming increasingly popular in all spheres of daily life – from businesses to personal mindful practice. Spas are more accessible than ever before, giving people an opportunity to unwind and relax with treatments.
On top of this accessibility, spas are placing more and more focus on the holistic side of wellbeing – think encouraging relaxation techniques and meditation alongside your treatments rather than just applying a mud wrap and leaving you to your own devices.
Relaxation techniques are taking off in a big way off the back of this, with at-home meditation gaining popularity. If you’re dubious, just have a look at how many relaxation apps are available to download to your phone.
These basic mindfulness techniques are a great way to relax and unwind when daily life starts to get a bit too much.
It’s clear that spa days are better for us than we might think. Beyond the glow of a fresh facial, there’s real applications to our own lives that can really improve our mental wellbeing. Taking some time for yourself to do what makes you happy – like enjoying a pampering spa day – will make you feel happier, healthier, and more engaged in your daily life. And extending the relaxation that you feel at the spa into your working week can keep you grounded when stress starts to hit.
Take the time for yourself. You deserve it.