Around this time of year, we have a natural inclination to move from the restful state of winter into reset mode. Spring is a season of renewal, and with it is an opportunity to detox whatever is not serving you, physically and emotionally. This can manifest in many ways, but detoxing essentially means to clear out the toxins in our bodies and lives for healing and expansion. Here’s our perspective on how to cleanse and renew mind and spirit this spring.Read More
Glowing skin, body feeling light, energized and refreshed. The physical benefits of Infrared (IR) Saunas are studied and proven, but why is the person who walks out of that warm little room so different than the person who went in? Here is Haley’s take.Read More
I am really excited to share my personal take on all the hot new wellness trends this year (sauna pun intended)... As many of you know, I am on a constant hunt for finding wellness methods to heal, balance, and sustain me through new motherhood, running a growing business, and enjoying my life and family. I am always intrigued to try a new trend, but am honest with myself on what works and what doesn't. So, I'm keeping it real with you and sharing what I'm truly seeing - and using - as the top trends of the year. Because believe me, from following the moon eclipses to sitting in a bath of colored oils, I've tried them all. Here's what I'm loving.Read More
On paper, the concept that light can heal depression is poetic. I am not talking about the theoretical light, or spirit, or energy inside us all. I am, instead, speaking of actual light waves. Infrared light is a wavelength that is perceived as heat by the body. A few months ago, I posted about a recent study on near-infrared as a treatment for depression and received an overwhelming response from our community to know more about this link. I did not expect to discover the depth of research on this topic - how infrared, especially near-infrared, therapy can heal our brain.
We all know the seriousness of mental illness, but to put it into perspective for a moment, the WHO (World Health Organization) states that over 300 million people worldwide are affected by depression. Close to 800,000 people die of suicide every year and it is the second-leading cause of death in 15 to 29 year olds. Not to mention the millions of people suffering and dying from addictions to drugs, alcohol, and amphetamines, which most commonly used as numbing-agents and coping mechanisms to deal with mental illnesses and emotional issues. People of all genders, ethnicities, socio-economic backgrounds are affected by mental illnesses, but women are especially at risk for depression.
A network of researchers, scientists and doctors are working tirelessly to learn more about our brains, stress, mental illnesses, and how to create more effective, long-term treatments without negative side effects. One such treatment is light and heat. Of all the types of light and heat available (think a hot bath, a regular sauna, other wavelengths of light such as red light), infrared has taken center stage for many reasons. Infrared light is particularly effective and can penetrate the body up to three inches deep, affecting tissues at a cellular level. It can heat the body comfortably at a lower level, making it more tolerable than other forms of heat. Infrared has been reliably proven to decrease inflammation, which on a basic level is known to positively affect all bodily processes including brain health. Infrared has also been well documented to relieve pain, in everything from chronic low-back pain to rheumatoid arthritis. Given that we know that the same regions in the brain are activated by physical and emotional pain and how inflammation can affect the brain, scientists have turned to infrared, and multiple studies are showing that infrared sauna therapy is a promising treatment for healing the brain and combatting depression, anxiety and even Alzheimer’s disease.
To be honest, when I began to research this topic, I thought that there were a smattering of studies about the brain and infrared out there and not much more. Infrared has not been studied at length due to the simple fact that it is an alternative healing modality that no one corporation stands to gain money from. The sad fact is most clinical research is sponsored by big pharma and lobbyists like factory farmers, dairy farmers, and so on. That’s for another day, but the bottom line is I was overwhelmed by the amount of data that is proving the link between brain health and near-infrared light. Here is a summary of what I discovered, which is just scratching the surface of the amount of evidence out there on how infrared therapy, namely near-infrared light, benefits the brain, and could possibly be an effective, healthy treatment for everything from depression to dementia.
Let’s start with just heat, meaning all infrared wavelengths. One study found that hyperthermia (i.e. heating the body to about 100 degrees Fahrenheit) stimulated the skin in a way that activated serotonin production, which in turn changes brain functionality. Serotonin is the positivity neurochemical and it regulates mood, happiness and anxiety and low-levels trigger depression. As mentioned earlier, infrared decreases inflammation, and this decreases and heals cell damage in the brain. To dial it back for a moment – not all inflammation is bad, it’s an important immune mechanism for the body, but chronic inflammation has been connected to a wide range of health problems and auto-immune diseases.
A variety of studies are finding that near-infrared light increases connections in between neurons and stimulates the formation of new ones. In 1967, a doctor named Endre Master from Hungary accidentally discovered that near-infrared light could help with wound healing, reduction of pain and inflammation. Scientists have been applying this theory to the brain with stroke patients, and sadly, mice, rats, and rabbits, and have discovered that near-infrared light increases the connections between neurons and stimulates the formation of new ones. It has been proven to restore brain function in stroke patients. Even in a study of mice where they covered their heads with aluminum, the body being exposed to near-infrared produced results of increasing healing in the brain. Other animal models of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease have reported that low-level near-infrared light has neuroprotective effects and slows the death of neurons. What near-infrared essentially does is promote the repair of tissue throughout the body, and this function in the brain is the mechanism that has been shown to combat depression and other neurological issues.
These two studies were conducted on real people suffering with depression, with rigorous trial standards, and had remarkable results. They are the first of their kind, with hopefully many more trials on humans using infrared to replicate these promising results to come.
Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison used infrared lights to heat patients diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder to temperature of 38.5°C – or 101.4°F – and found a substantial reduction in the symptoms of depression within as little as one week. If you’re interested in the standards of the trial, it was randomized, double-blind and sham-controlled – and worked with 338 volunteers from a range of levels of depression. Researchers concluded that using infrared light to heat the body “holds promise as a safe, fast-acting anti-depressant modality with a prolonged therapeutic benefit.”
Some scientists believe that depression is a metabolic disorder, “an under functioning of the cellular process by which complex molecules are broken down to produce the energy to maintain life.” Paolo Cassano at Massachusetts General Hospital theorized that an infrared “jolt” could possibly restore normal brain function in people suffering from depression: “Cassano’s idea was to target those sluggish neurons close to the surface where mitochondria, the power sources of cells, could convert the near-infrared light into chemical energy. More chemical energy would mean more neuronal growth and repair, and more and better-functioning neurons in the prefrontal cortex would mean better control over the hyperactive amygdala.”
Participants in the study received twice-weekly twenty-minute treatments of near infrared light for eight weeks. The device used was about the size and shape of a TV remote and sent concentrated light-beams into a specific spot on the head, penetrating the scalp, skull and brain tissue. Patients in the trial had dramatically decreased levels of sadness, anxiety, lethargy, and agitation.
This journal post truly just scratched the surface of the data that is available on brain healing, depression, stroke, and infrared and light therapies. As you can tell, there is a vast amount of research out there on everything from depression to Parkinson’s to Alzheimers and strokes, and I encourage you to read the sources listed below and do your own deep dive. I walked away from this investigation with a deeper appreciation for this healing modality of infrared light than I have ever had before. Yet what affected me the most is that while reading about all of these studies, all the science and data and numbers, I found myself feeling deeply grateful for all the men and women behind them who are working tirelessly to solve these dire medical issues. It made me think of Mr. Roger’s mother’s reminder that we should always “look for the helpers.” How beautiful is it to remember that each and every day, there are incredibly smart, creative, and loving people waking up and giving their time, their lives, to find new ways to heal us and our human family.
Here's our round-up of everything our team at Inner Light is loving this past month! This is what we're doing, reading, eating, using, watching... whatever is inspiring us and fueling us at this moment. I am sure you all know Haley, our amazing manager, who has been is my right hand woman! Jesse has been with us a year now and you've probably met her on weekends at IL. Both these ladies are so talented, lovely and integral to our team, and they live our our wellness manifesto every day! We always seem to be aligning with each other - one of Haley's picks is palo santo and I have been burning palo santo more than ever the past few weeks. It's a perfect way to set intentional space and clear bad vibes. It's also addicting - it smells SO good that it's the main ingredient in our candles actually! I love Jesse's book of the summer - I have used the "artists way" method before after hearing a talk by the author and it truly is life-changing.
Read on for what we're all loving the past couple months...
(Photo of my favorites is above...)
Lost + Found Cover-Up
On Mother's Day this year I stopped by Stems + Co in Rowayton for some shopping and flowers for the mamas in my life. I ended up scooping up this beautiful coverup that I've been wearing all summer long. It's so soft and the most beautiful indigo blue, there's nothing else I want to wear if I'm headed to the beach. My favorite part is that the designer is sisters with Zoe, one of the owners of Stems + Co - I love to support local entrepreneurial women as much as possible! Shop here and visit Stems + Co next to Rowayton Seafood restaurant.
Bodha Modern Wellness Incense in Refresh
All winter I was in love with Bodha's Ground incense and this summer it's been all about the Refresh. These peacock blue incense sticks are smokeless and hand crafted in Japan on Incense Island. The scent is cyclamen, primrose & jasmine and feels both energizing and calming when I light it. I love putting on an Inner Light candle and lighting a couple of these in its flame in the early evening after the boys go down for the night. Online here or in our Shop.
Daring Greatly by Brene Brown
I am obsessed with self-growth, it's what got me on this journey with self-care and led me to found Inner Light. I am a little odd and literally never read anything other than non-fiction books on spiritual, nutrition, and self-help! I recently decided to prioritize more time to read and my first pick was Daring Greatly by Brene Brown. Brown's years of research on shame, guilt, and everything in between - has led to the conclusion that "vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity." I adore this book, it's message, and I will incorporate her findings into the rest of my life. Shop here.
Sakara Life Sleep Tea
Recently, I have had trouble turning off my brain at night and I found that my usual magnesium drink wasn't doing the trick. Enter this Sleep Tea from Sakara - it has worked wonders in helping me get into a deep sleep quick. In fact, I almost fell alseep while reading the first time I tried it! With valerian, kava kava, and catnip combined, this powerhouse also tastes delicious. Shop here.
Verte Essentials Esprit De Rose
The world of CBD is so new and exciting to me. We started carrying Verte Essentials with the intention of bringing an approachable, beautiful & effective CBD product to our clients. I have been loving the Esprit De Rose as a refreshing and uplifting way to start and finish my day. Refresh your natural glow at any moment with a 2-4 spray ritual, or add it to your favorite beverage. Sold in our Shop or online on their site.
AllSwell Notebook No.2
I finally found the perfect notebook from AllSwell. Half of the book is blank pages - perfect for creative sketching & the other half is Lined Pages - perfect for my dream journaling & to do lists. For any of you that know me, I am a HUGE lover of the ocean and water. AllSwell was born from a morning surf check with uninspiring results, Laura decided to sit on the beach and journal instead. “Swell or no swell, all’s well.” Sold in our Shop or online here.
Rootfoot Palo Santo
At the beginning of August I moved into a new home. Palo Santo has been a very important part of my cleansing ritual and has helped me set clear intentions for this new chapter of my life. Palo Santo Sticks are used in ceremony to create sacred space, clear negative energy and cultivate new positive energy and healing by smudging. I suggest keeping these out around your home to Sold in our Shop - or here is another source.
J.Crew Scoopback One-Piece Swimsuit
I am currently living in an Endless Summer mindset. I live for sunny boat days hanging with my best friends and am always searching for the perfect swimsuit. J Crew has a huge sale right now and I couldn't resist this colorful one-piece. Sometimes self care is treating yourself to a little retail therapy. Available online here.
Andalou Naturals - Turmeric + C Enlighten Serum
My skin and I haven’t always been the friends we are today. While I've never had terrible acne, since my early teens I've consistently had a few spots on my face I'm working to get rid of. Mostly due when I was younger to sports I was playing and not realizing the necessity of removing your makeup before bed. I now understand my skin type and know which products will work for it and which won’t. However, from my years of more problematic skin I still have little red marks that are slowly fading. My skin is super sensitive so any mark no matter how small is going to last for awhile. I've been looking for a product to help speed up the process enter: Andalou Naturals Turmeric Serum. This stuff was a spur of the moment Thrive Market purchase and I do not regret it! It's been a little over a month since I've been applying the serum both morning and night and my old acne scars have dramatically improved. In the summer time I love to keep a fresh face and minimal makeup but haven't felt confident enough to do so until recently and this product is to thank! It's also vegan and cruelty free which gets big points in my book. Shop here.
RMS Beauty - Living Luminizer
This RMS highlighter was a gift from our other lovely desk girl at Inner Light, Daisy. One shift together I was talking about wanting to try more organic makeup and the next time I saw her she had this for me! I worked through some of the older products I had and waited a little to try this out, looking back I wish I’d just jumped right into it! Prior to using this I’d predominantly used powder based highlighters, which sat atop my skin and had more of a fake look to it and would cake up as the day progressed. The Living Luminizer is more of a cream base so it sinks perfectly into the skin and when it catches the light gives you a perfect natural glow. It’s been my go to with just a bit of mascara day to day all summer long! Shop here.
45 minutes away from NYC in the suburban smog of Darien, CT you can’t see as many stars as you can elsewhere in the NorthEast. My boyfriend grew up in the peaceful landscape of the Hudson Valley and always laments how few stars you can spot here versus when we’re at his house. He discovered the app SkyView which allows you to hold your phone up to a light in the sky and it will identify if it’s a star, constellation, or planet. It has become one of our favorite routines this summer almost every night to go out into my backyard at dusk and see what we can identify in the night sky. It's so satisfying and mystical to know where Jupiter, Mars, Saturn, and the Moon are each night. Find here in the App Store for iPhones.
Finding Water: The Art of Perseverance by Julia Cameron
This book by Julia Cameron has been my bible all summer long. I’m actively pursuing a career in music and from time to time find it difficult to stay focused and dedicated to creating. I happened upon this book at the Southport Library book sale this summer, it actually happens to be signed by the author, which I take to be serendipitous. Throughout it Julia documents exercises, habits, and wisdom that have built the pillars of how she believes one becomes a successful artist. I’ve instilled her Morning Pages and Artist Dates so far and already feel an increased sense of self-worth and self-reliance. It is so easy with anything you do to keep pushing it off and waiting till you’re “in the mood.” This book gives you tools to push pass this mind-block and work through until you’ve accomplished something you’re proud of. Here are a few of my favorite quotes:
“Give what you have. To someone else it may be better than you dare think.” -Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
“It will never rain roses. When we want to have more roses, we must plant more roses.” -George Eliot
Benefits of infrared sauna therapy for new mothers, nursing and breastfeeding.Read More