Everything in nature needs regular, periodic resets — including your mind and body.
This spring, that’s even truer. After a winter that tested so many of us in profound ways, as the weather warms and the days lengthen, it’s important that we let go of what we no longer need, mentally, physically, and emotionally. Think of it as a spring cleaning for your psyche.
If you, like us, are looking for ways to clear your mind, detox your body, and feel the full benefits of a fresh start, here are some science-backed ways to do just that.
The History of Spring Cleaning
As a tradition, spring cleaning got its start for deeply practical reasons. Going back to the 18th and 19th centuries, in much of the U.S., cleaning homes in the winter wasn’t an option. That’s because they were heated by wood or coal and lit with whale oil or kerosene — meaning that, as doors and windows stayed locked against the cold, everything indoors grew a thick layer of soot, dust and grime. Then, as soon as it became warm enough, homes would be opened up and scrubbed out until they gleamed.
Spring cleaning’s roots go beyond the practical, though; in many cultures, they’re also tied to rituals of spiritual significance. In ancient Jewish traditions, homes were thoroughly cleaned in the springtime in preparation for Passover, and in Iran, the Persian New Year’s “khooneh takouni” tradition — meaning, “shaking the house” — was meant to signify new beginnings. Meanwhile, in Thailand, the April holiday of Songkran is celebrated as a festival of purification, including of the home.
Rituals of renewal should still hold a place in our lives today. It’s important that we take the time not only to declutter what surrounds us externally, but to clean our bodies and minds, too.
Types of Detoxes
The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health describes a number of popular ways people detox and cleanse today, including:
Fasting or juicing
Using detoxifying herbs
Cleansing the colon through enemas, laxatives or colonics
Using a sauna
Unfortunately, some diet-based cleanses and detoxes aren’t believed to be particularly effective — or safe. Lawsuits have been taken out against many companies selling detox and cleansing products over false claims and their use of potentially harmful ingredients, not to mention the disordered relationship to eating they often promote. In addition, many colon-cleansing procedures have also been linked to harmful side effects and lasting repercussions for the body.
We all have individual paths to wellness, and at the end of the day, it’s about doing your own research and creating the self-care plan that makes sense for you. Luckily, if you’re someone who’s interested in adding more holistic ways of detoxing and cleansing to your toolkit, there are plenty of options that will leave your body and mind feeling rejuvenated naturally.
Ways to Cleanse the Mind
Meditation has become such a buzzy concept that it’s easy to dismiss. But it’s been a popular mind-cleansing tool for centuries for a reason. Meditation is an effective way to expand your ability to be mindful — namely, your ability to feel present and grounded in the moment — helping you declutter your mind from all of life’s noise.
At Sauna House, our founder, Andrew, is a big fan of the Mind Sweep method. To try this out for yourself, get out a piece of paper — then write down everything that’s rattling around inside your brain. A Mind Sweep helps get you some space from distracting thoughts and mental overload, freeing up room in your brain and giving you more focus.
Put your phone away. (And really do it!)
Constant connectivity can put a major drain on your mental battery. And during the pandemic, the feeling of being overly plugged-in has only gotten worse — in 2020, the average U.S. adult spent a whopping 16 hours online. Too many screens can seriously impact stress levels and our ability to sleep, so give your brain a break with intentional tech-free time.
Go to therapy.
Like journaling, seeing a therapist can serve as an effective container for all the loose thoughts and stressors buzzing around inside your brain. Naming anxious thoughts and feelings is an impactful way to clear your mind of them, and a therapist will help you do that.
Move your body.
It sounds trite, but when it comes to improving mental clarity, regular exercise can’t be beat. That can look any number of ways — from taking a short walk (and if you’re able to do that in a natural setting, like a park, that’s even better!) to doing some simple stretches and small, meditative movements at home.
Ways to Cleanse the Body
Eat detoxifying foods.
Sugary, processed foods can impair your body’s ability to naturally detoxify, whereas antioxidant-rich foods — like berries, fruits, nuts, vegetables and spices — do the opposite by fighting off “free radicals,” waste substances produced by cells in response to inflammation and environmental stressors. If the body can’t cleanse itself of these toxins, oxidative stress is the result — which, in turn, has been linked to a number of health conditions like heart disease, cancer, arthritis, stroke and immune deficiencies.
For another pro tip, add to your pantry foods that are high in sulforaphane, in particular. A sulfur-rich compound found in leafy vegetables like broccoli, it neutralizes toxins, reduces inflammation and helps the body excrete heavy metals — meaning that “eat your broccoli” has always been good advice!
Skip the coffee and grab a green tea.
Green tea contains about half the amount of caffeine as coffee — but, unlike coffee, it also contains bioactive compounds which have been shown to protect brain health, fight aging and possibly prevent neurodegenerative disorders. Plus, green tea is also rich in antioxidants and is super hydrating.
Are you breathing deeply right now? For most of us, if we’re just breathing automatically, the answer is probably no. Deep-breathing techniques are powerful ways to increase oxygen in the body, flush out toxins and regulate stress. Plenty of yoga studios offer breathwork classes — try searching “pranayama” — and meditation apps like Calm and Headspace can help, too.
Without the right amount of quality sleep each night, the body isn’t able to cleanse itself of the day’s toxic waste buildup, including beta-amyloid, a protein linked to Alzheimer’s disease. Make sure you’re prioritizing sleep, including sticking to a regular sleep schedule and limiting tech use before bed.
Using Sauna Therapy to Cleanse the Mind AND Body
For an integrated mind-body cleanse, spending time in the sauna can be incredibly effective. At Sauna House, we like to recommend our hot, cold, relax blend of therapies for a detox that’s mental as well as physical.
Starting off in the heat of one of our three types of sauna, your body’s blood flow is increased, helping oxygen to penetrate muscle pains and aches. That same richly oxygenated blood is then sent to the brain, reducing inflammation, improving cognitive function and preventing forms of mental decay. By following this heat with a 53-degree cold water plunge, your brain immediately begins producing mood-boosting endorphins and oxytocin, as well as energy-giving norepinephrine, improving both outlook and attentiveness; a lot of people describe it as similar to a natural runners’ high.
Beyond the brain boost, your body is also reaping the hot-cold combo benefits, with the lymphatic system benefiting in particular. This system relies on muscle contraction to move lymph fluid through your body’s network of lymph vessels, nodes and organs, many of which play major roles in the immune system. The succession of hot and cold relaxes your lymph vessels before contracting them, helping your body “pump” fluid, reduce buildup and inflammation, and flush out toxins.
Finally, during the relaxation period of your time at Sauna House, endorphins are released as you rest in a beautiful, calming environment, giving your parasympathetic nervous system the chance to reset. If you’re someone who struggles to put away screens and take a breath at home, being in a space that’s so intentionally centered on relaxation can eliminate distractions and help you truly unplug.
Ready to Get Started?
Whether at home or at the sauna, being intentional about cleansing the mind and body this spring can help ready you to reenter the world feeling restored. We hope you’ll try some of these methods out at home, and if you’re interested in adding hot-cold therapy to your wellness toolkit, we’d love to hear from you!