A man lying down inside a 3 person infrared sauna made by SaunaRay

Habit Stacking in Your Sauna

Developing good, healthy habits can be life-changing. The challenge for most people is finding the time or discipline to introduce a new habit. That means any potential positive change is more often relegated to the back burner day after day, and sometimes never appears. 

One concept that may help is called habit stacking, and it’s something that you can easily try with your infrared sauna.

What Is Habit Stacking?

Habit stacking is a simple idea, though many people don’t know much about it yet. It’s been noted as one of the tools that successful entrepreneurs, wellness gurus, and even professional athletes use to perform just a little bit better every day. The concept is to simply piggyback a new habit you want to begin onto an existing habit. Make a tiny change every day or every week, and slowly keep adding to it.

One of the biggest advocates of this concept is James Clear, who wrote the book Atomic Habits. In it, he described a specific formula to create these healthy habits. It states:

After/before I [Current habit], I will [New habit]. Putting this into practice may be as simple as saying that, “Before I have a cup of coffee in the morning, I’ll spend 10 minutes meditating.”

It’s also possible to add healthy habits while you’re engaging in a current habit. Instead of before or after, do it “during” your existing routine. For example, “While I’m using my infrared sauna, I’ll meditate.”

Why Does Habit Stacking Work?

It’s difficult to create new habits because of the way our brains work. The human brain is hardwired to engage in activities that are familiar, expected, or fully understood. When it comes to introducing new habits, they can be perceived as a subtle stress which turns the great new idea into a daily chore that’s easier to simply avoid than practice. 

The human brain strengthens any regular behavior, but reduces our focus on behavior that we don’t habitually practice. This is known as synaptic pruning. The brain naturally engages in activities it recognizes, but struggles with newer concepts.  The older we get, the more entrenched we are in what we perceive as “familiar”. That’s why it’s hard to teach an old dog a new trick. It’s not your fault, we’re born that way.  That’s why new habits are hard to introduce, and old habits are hard to break. 

Habit stacking involves making one small and easy change in your daily routine until you get used to it. Then, adding another until there is an incremental overall improvement. Baby steps, one at a  time, until you’re running. 

How to Incorporate Healthy Habits in an Infrared Sauna

People who are interested in this idea will benefit from a few simple strategies that will help you to gain healthy habits in your daily life. For those with a sauna, there are a few specific ways you can see significant improvement by using the habit stacking formula. Here are a few suggestions: 

  • Meditate. This is perhaps one of the easiest ways to use the time in the sauna. You’re already alone in a quiet space. That may amplify your ability to focus. Spending even 10 minutes meditating can bring a big change to your overall mental health and focus. By the time you start sweating you’ve also enjoyed the benefits of meditation which are immediate and significant.
  • Yoga. Engaging in yoga poses, isometric grips, or even some planks while you are in your sauna can help to accelerate circulation and open up your pores and allow for more of a full-body experience. It may also help you to feel more energetically restored after your sauna session.
  • Stretch. For those who jump into their sauna first thing in the morning, use that time to strengthen the back, legs, arms, and neck. It is the perfect time of day to wake up your body in a positive place. It’s also great for muscle repair after a workout.
  • Deep breathing.  If you’ve heard of the Wim Hof breathing method, it is possible to do it in the sauna. A reduced intensity is wise because the heat adds a stressor to the body, but simply by breathing into your upper lungs and expanding them with air intake as far as you possibly can will help to accelerate the pace at which you start to sweat.  It can help save time, if you only have 15-20 minutes in the morning, if you breathe deeply and repetitively while sitting in a sauna.
  • Read. Ideally something relaxing like a novel or a long form magazine article. Even if it’s something you have to read for work it’s a great idea. Once you’re finished you will have your work done, and you will have enjoyed a healthy and invigorating sweat in your sauna. 

There are so many things you can do in your sauna other than just waiting to sweat. Concentrate, to be present in the moment.  Breathe deeply, read or exercise. This is an easy way to start your habit stacking process and then you can begin to incorporate it into other aspects of your life. Using the habit stacking process, one baby step at a time, can help you to incorporate new healthy habits into your life, for the long run.