Written by Dr. Pamela Peeke
The dictionary defines wellness as “the state of being in good health, especially as an actively pursued goal.” This translates to how you strategically plan to achieve optimal health with goals and objectives as critical stepping stones. The bottom line is that wellness usually doesn’t fall in your lap—you make it happen.
Conjuring wellness, many may envision hours of running on a treadmill, scarfing handfuls of nuts and berries, popping the morning multivitamin and queuing up your favorite yoga and meditation channels.
But wait. There’s more.
When I wrote Fit to Live, I addressed the physical, mental, spiritual, environmental, and social dimensions of wellness. I even added financial, because without a sound plan to fund whole foods, fitness equipment and a clean environment, wellness is compromised. All of these elements are essential and part of an integrative, holistic approach to well-being.
Wellness, then, is a dynamic daily practice of intentional healthy habits, the end result of which is not merely boosting your ability to survive, but also enhancing your opportunities to thrive.
Let’s add another dimension, something new and fresh from the halls of engineering science—thermal wellness.
Sam Shames, a material science engineering graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, defines thermal wellness as “using temperature to improve your physical or emotional well-being intentionally. It’s more than putting on a coat when it’s cold to avoid hypothermia; it’s making the choice to take a hot bath after a hard day at work.” Shames is co-founder of Embr Labs, the thermal wellness industry leader.
Optimizing thermal wellness results in achieving thermal comfort, which occurs when you perceive satisfaction with your internal and external thermal environment. In other words, you feel not too hot or cold, but instead, just right. This goes beyond the infamous thermostat wars at home and in the workplace. You are your own unique thermal ecosystem.
To achieve your thermal wellness and comfort sweet spot, be mindful of the pivotal roles that clothing, air and radiant temperature, relative humidity, and even metabolism play. That’s right. Your thermal ecosystem involves external as well as internal influences.
Metabolism is actually foundational to thermal wellness. The body is constantly generating heat as it performs metabolic processes 24/7. Muscle mass, age, gender, and genetics all affect your body’s innate metabolic heat engine. Metabolism is greatly influenced by medical conditions that affect temperature, like a fever. More interestingly, the body can ignite volcanic eruptions of intense heat sensations called hot flashes when the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight) is overstimulated. This phenomenon can occur when women enter the perimenopause (beginning age 40), experience menopause (age 50-53), and in the post-menopausal period. Men, too, can feel hot flashes when placed on hormonal therapy treatment for prostate cancer.
Temperature sensations, then, are not just initiated from the external environment. It turns out, thermal wellness is an inside job as well.
Here’s a suggestion—try to be more thermally mindful about how your body feels as you eat nutritious foods, hike up that hill, sit still to meditate, socially connect with family and friends, and go about your personal and professional activities. Strive to enhance your mind-body awareness of warmth and coolness.
While your body is hard at work keeping you thermally comfortable, be aware of how thermally attuned you are to fluxes in temperature (you cool down in the evening and warm up upon awakening). At times, you can even enjoy thermal pleasure as your inner and outer physical self achieves its optimal balance.
So, as you go about your daily wellness practices, add a thermal touch as well.