Benefits of Going to a Spa for Your Mental Health

Self-care isn’t just a luxury, it’s a necessity.

Self-Care is Anything But Selfish

Far too often, we’re told that self-care is an indulgence and we’re lucky if we have time to enjoy any form of it daily. From regular hair appointments and massages to mani-pedis and skin treatments, there are significant beneifts making these so-called indulgences into regular occurrences.

Our mental health affects our physical health, so it’s important not to neglect either one. Total Health and Fitness details the role of mental health in physical fitness, and how one shouldn’t necessarily come before the other. You can find out more about that topic HERE. While it’s wonderful that mental health can complement our physical well-being, there are a plethora of other reasons to book a spa day.

The Mental Benefits of Going to a Spa

Obviously, there are physical, visible benefits to a spa treatment- glowing skin, silky hair, and immaculate nails. But, there are mental benefits as well. 

The Spa and the Sympathetic Nervous System

Long ago, humankind faced numerous mortal threats every day. Foraging for food meant coming in contact with other predators, which kicked our sympathetic nervous systems into action. The sympathetic system is responsible for our fight or flight response, which is an automatic reaction to a perceived or real danger. The sympathetic nervous system produces an abundance of adrenaline to help us make split-second decisions regarding whether we should defend ourselves, or flee to safety.

Today, our fight or flight response may not be triggered by encountering a bear in the woods, but by an onslaught of emails, parental duties, or uncomfortable conversations regarding politics. Many of us don’t realize that we’re often functioning in a constant state of anxiety until we are forced to slow down and remember what a break feels like. 

Massage treatment at a spa can reduce cortisol production by 50%, and reduce adrenaline production as well. Having less of these stress hormones circulating in your body can provide a tangible sense of relief for your mind, and allow you to experience the “feel good” hormones: serotonin and dopamine. While all hormones serve their purpose for our survival, there are obvious benefits to reducing the amount of stress hormones coursing through your veins on an average day. 

Spas Promote Mindfulness

One of the benefits of a spa treatment, whether it’s a massage, a hair appointment, or a mudbath, is that you get to disconnect from the rest of your day. Even if it’s just for an hour, you can turn off your phone, close your eyes, and practice mindfulness. 

Without any distractions, you’re invited to focus on the present moment, and only the present moment. This practice, however simple, can combat feelings of depression. Many people who live with depression have trouble letting go of the past and the future; being caught looking back and looking forward can exacerbate depression symptoms. During a spa appointment, there’s an opportunity to let everything go, and this informal type of mindfulness practice can increase thickness in the brain’s prefrontal cortex.

Functions of the Prefrontal Cortex

The prefrontal cortex is responsible for attention control. When we meditate and focus on mindfulness, or being present, we rewire our brains and teach them to function differently. This is why, after taking a mindful break from a taxing task, we feel refreshed and ready to focus once we return; we have given the attention center of our brains a chance to grow.

How Positivity Affects our Wellbeing

There is such a thing as being too positive or too negative. But when you can find the right balance, your mindset can affect your overall wellbeing. But, how can we increase the positivity in our lives when we’re stressed about work, relationships, or the state of the world?

It’s a given that getting spruced up at the spa can affect our confidence. And, in turn, confidence can make us feel happy. When we’re happy with how we feel on the inside, we’re more likely to take better care of other aspects of our lives- physical fitness, diet, etc… Spa treatments that reduce inflammation, relax tense muscles, or slough off dead skin can give us a new outlook on life, helping us find more positivity. If you doubt how our mindset can influence our overall wellbeing, here are some of the proven benefits of positivity as shared by Alpine Clinic:

  • Increased life span

  • Lower cortisol levels

  • Better immunity to illness

  • Improved heart health

  • Better coping skills

Self-care looks different for everyone, but if your spa visits bring more happiness into your life, that is reason enough to continue them.

Self-Care and Sleep

No matter how trying any given day is, if it’s followed by a good night’s sleep your hope can be restored the next morning. But it can be hard to catch some zzzs when you’re stressed, depressed, or otherwise negatively afflicted. Spa treatments are proven to improve sleep thanks to a combination of factors:

  • Soothing touch can reduce cortisol levels

  • Deep tissue massage can promote serotonin production, which aids in melatonin production (the “sleep hormone”)

  • Aromatherapy treatments can trigger relaxation hormones

  • Water therapy (such as a hot tub) can improve circulation, which is linked to better sleep

Reducing stress or chronic pain is often reason enough to go to the spa. If it can also lead to a better night’s sleep, what more could you ask for?

A Chance to Feel Connected

You might love the spa for the chance it gives you to embrace solitude, but other people love the spa for the opportunity to bond with loved ones. Group or couple’s treatments are a great option for those who want time to slow down together and enjoy being pampered. In a world where we’re often connecting virtually, it’s important to make time to be with another person face-to-face. 

The spa treatments themselves can lower blood pressure and reduce stress hormones, and so can being with loved ones. Get the best of both worlds by booking your favorite treatment with a friend or spouse. Experiences often make the best vacation souvenirs, so consider staying at a hotel with a spa on your next vacation and booking a service with someone you love. Or, round up your friends for a spa day a little closer to home to celebrate making it to Friday.

Remember, Self-Care is Anything But Selfish

If you had a physical illness that required regular treatments in order to get better, you would probably adhere to the schedule outlined by your doctors. So, why not do the same to treat your mental health? Don’t wait until you’re burned out to treat yourself to a facial, a massage, or steam room. Make it a regular part of your routine to promote your mental wellbeing.