A small group of people chatting while they rest in the lounge area during the relax portion of the bathhouse circuit

How to Find Community at Sauna House

There are places in the world where people regularly live up to a hundred (and sometimes longer): Okinawa, Japan; Sardinia, Italy; Nicoya, Costa Rica; Ikaria, Greece; and Loma Linda, California. Called Blue Zones, there are several things they share in common. Of course, they have healthy diets and the occasional glass of wine, but there’s another factor — community. Research published in the American Journal of Lifestyle medication identified that people in these Blue Zones put loved ones first and have social circles that support healthy behaviors.

A whopping 1,187 scientific studies with more than 1,458 million participants all point towards the same thing: that when you’ve got a strong sense of community and great friends around you, you live a longer, happier, healthier life. 

So what exactly is community? NAMI (The National Alliance on Mental Illness) defines community as a feeling— feeling of being connected to others, accepted for who you are and being supported. Being wanted and loved. And outside of these Blue Zones, that lovin’ feelin’ is kind of in short supply.

During Covid-19, as we stayed home and strove to handle our home lives, work lives, personal lives and the overwhelming fear of catching the bug, our social lives took a solid beating. Almost three years after the first incident of the virus, we’re still navigating a new way of living, loving, and socializing. How do we make friends and keep them? 

Ask anyone (or Google) for advice, and you get “Join an activity class!” or “Connect with your coworkers!” but these solutions only scratch the surface. What you really want is connection. You don’t just want thousands of friends on Facebook. You want people you can have a heart-to-heart with, whom you can hang out with outside of the gym or art class. So how do we find them?

Well, we say head to the bathhouse.

Three people sitting in the sauna together talking and laughing

Meet me at the bathhouse

In the Western world and elsewhere, private bathing is a new phenomenon. In the US itself, the first private bathtub was installed only in 1842, so before that, whether people liked it or not, they had to bathe together. They did so for thousands of years at public bathhouses all over the world. Everyone was part of a bathhouse: rich, poor, healthy, sick,.

But here’s the thing: bathhouse culture was about more than just getting clean (admittedly a low priority until the late 19th century). Bathhouses were an inseparable part of the social fabric of people’s lives. Roman thermae, for instance, were complex facilities that included places to socialize and work out, with some even featuring large libraries! Similarly in the present, lavish Korean jjimjilbangs have the usual wet and dry rooms with spaces for exercising massages and facials—but there, you’ll also find arcade games and karaoke for family fun.

The sauna is a more intimate space. A past president of Finland (the capital of sauna culture, where even the Parliament has a dedicated sauna), Urho Kekkonen, called the sauna a great leveler. He said, “There are no ministers, VIPs, laborers, or lumberjacks on the sauna platform, only sauna mates.” 

Well past the heyday of public bathing, saunas are still a fantastic place to level with people. In Russian banyas, as with Finnish saunas, businesspeople and politicians frequently meet for meaningful conversations. Former secretary of state James Baker once took off his clothes and joined the equally naked president of Kazakhstan in a sauna to talk about the fate of the former Soviet Union. And folks, this went on until 3 A.M. (source: The Sauna by Robert L. Roy)

That’s the magic of sauna—it’s a place that engenders close friendships and community no matter who you are. Once the awkwardness of being strip-naked together falls away, the sauna is a space that facilitates soul-baring conversations, the kind that kindle genuine connection. Whether it’s geopolitics, the latest in pop culture, or a place to spill the tea with friends, conversations take on new honesty in the sauna.

What better place to find community and build social connections than the sauna?

Find community at Sauna House 

NAMI lists three aspects of community: a sense of belonging, feeling supported, and having a role to play. Belonging, support, and purpose are important to good mental health; and social connection and community paves the way for happiness. Although one person’s idea of happiness differs greatly from another’s, research suggests that social connection is critical. And happy people are healthy people.

The time you spend at the sauna with friends and strangers making small talk and big talk alike, is beneficial for your health in ways that go beyond expelling toxins from your body, helping with muscle recovery, and boosting your mental health. The sauna is also a great place to find community.

If you’re at a sauna, chances are you care about your health and wellness. At Sauna House, you can meet like-minded folks from the area while you lounge in the bathhouse, take a steam in the sauna, or dip in the cold plunge! Sauna time is also community time, and a hot/cold room might just be the place where you meet your new best friend. 

We’ll see you at the bathhouse

Make new friends or connect with old ones at Sauna House. Grab a spot in our bathhouse or book one of our private Hot, Cold, Relax rooms with you buds today!

Sweat together

January 04, 2023
By: Sauna House