It happens subconsciously. Your hand dips, feels for your pocket. The texture of denim meets your fingertips and unease begins to wane. You pull out the phone and unlock the screen. As social icons appear, you realize your thumb is acting of its own accord. For an instant that concerns you, but you’re one touch away– you’ll just skim your notifications. No big deal. And you feel better, right?
We’ve come to a way of living where discontent grows quickly in the absence of stimulation, and stimulation has never been more readily available. As a result we’ve forgone acquaintance with unease– we knock it back the moment it creeps in. The problem is, in our shift from discontent we’ve unwittingly abandoned a constructive space. The feelings we keep at bay through endless social engagement constitute a mindset that allows for growth. Discontent is really just the first stage of pushing past what we know– in its wake comes creativity, perspective, and clarity. Think of a child complaining of boredom. If left alone for fifteen minutes, they can slip into world-building play. As adults we tap into that same inventiveness, and a little imagination goes a long way in resolving the issues that drive our unease. Where children create characters, we create solutions.
At the spa, you’ll be pushed to face unease. Digital detox is the first step. You’ll leave your phone in your locker, temporarily restricting access to the artificial fix. It’s not an easy thing to do, and it may even cause some anxiety. That’s OK– you’re on the path to something better. Your next challenge is silence. The stimulation of chitchat is like the blue light of your phone, it will prevent you from finding a head space that cultivates clarity. Silence is especially difficult when visiting the spa with friends or a significant other, especially when coordinating movement through the baths. I encourage couples and groups to begin their visit with the understanding that they may drift away from each other and experience certain elements alone, before naturally finding each other once again. You’ll value the time to focus on your own inner state, and in the unspoken communication of reunion.
The third challenge is the cold plunge. It’s intimidating, a physical manifestation of the discomfort inherent to the spa’s healing process. Many patrons decline the plunge, opting for a more hedonistic experience focused on heat and relaxation. Some dip into the cold pools quickly, retreating from the encounter before feeling its full effect. But to achieve rejuvenation, we need to strip away what came before. Five to fifteen seconds underneath the Nordic waterfall forces you into the present. In addition to the physiological benefits, which include releasing endorphins and closing your pores to seal in the heat that came before, submersing yourself in cold will introduce you to the world refreshed. The plunge is a primer for the final stage of the hydrotherapy cycle, silent relaxation. It’s the last step in your transition to the healing mindset, where the stress factors of your day-to-day are seen for what they are: problems that can be unpacked, addressed, and resolved. Without your phone or a comforting quip from your loved one to break the spell, the perspective that follows your cold plunge will amaze you.
Embrace discontent. Know that it’s constructive, that it’s a harbinger of a healthier mental state. Be silent, be present, and make space for wellness to grow. Unease will lead you to clarity, and should be faced with faith in what awaits. Trust what’s coming– the other side is wonderful.
Words by David Mackinnon