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Cold Shower: Powerful Way To Improve Your Mental Health

Cold Shower: Powerful Way To Improve Your Mental Health

Ask anybody if they have heard of hydrotherapy and you will probably get a negative response. They may even look at you strangely. It is a pity that hydrotherapy (water therapy) is not yet widely accepted in mainstream medicine.

According to the statistics from Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 5% of the Americans suffer from depression. To address this increasingly common and pressing problem, medical scientists endeavour in looking for alternatives to prescriptions for antidepressants.

Now imagine if taking a cold shower was the answer. I can picture you shuddering if you live in the northern hemisphere and detect a certain amount of interest if you live near the Equator! You may think I am talking nonsense. But some interesting studies show that patients suffering from anxiety and depression were actually helped by simply taking a cooler, I mean cold, shower.

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Cold water is beneficial for overall health

From winter swimmers and people taking part in properly organized medical trials, we realize an interesting fact–our bodies react to cold water and love it. People with the habit of swimming in cold water and taking cold showers coincidentally reported improved mood, less stress, more energy and pain relief from rheumatism.

How does cold water help with depression?

According to Dr. Nikolai Shevchuk, we need to be exposed to more thermal stress. He states that we need to be exposed to cold water shock treatment because that activates beta-endorphin and noradrenaline in the brain. The latter is used in many anti-depressant medications. Here we have a natural process doing the same job without any side effects.

The shock of the cold water is similar to electrical shock treatment in many ways. The electrical impulses travel in large quantities from the nerve endings of the skin to reach the brain. Dr. Shevchuk’s hypothesis is that this reaction can have a beneficial effect on depression. However, more research needs to be done to confirm this.

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As an extra bonus, one research study found that cold showers helped to reduce uric acid levels. If these levels are not kept in check, you might suffer from painful gout and kidney disease.

Another bonus mentioned by Dr. Neil Schultz, a dermatologist, is that our skin will benefit enormously from taking cold showers. By first washing in warm water followed by cold water, you will get rid of redness and puffiness around the eyes. This will definitely put you in a great mood!

The same study found that exposure to cold water also had the effect of increasing gluthathione which is a super antioxidant and helps the other antioxidants to keep performing at the best possible levels. This sort of oxidative reaction can strengthen our resistance to physical, emotional and mental stress.

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How can cold showers help with anxiety?

Researchers from University of Osaka found that cold water bathing had a beneficial effect in reducing the cortisol hormone. This usually kicks into action when stress and anxiety are taking over. Some studies show that it can improve our resilience to stress.

If you are still not convinced, watch the entertaining video on all the health benefits of taking cold showers (7 mins). This should motivate you.

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Here are some tips to help you get started

As with most new activities, you can ease your way into this one. Have your normal shower at a lukewarm temperature. Then start to reduce the temperature gradually for a few minutes. Ideally, you will want to get the temp at 68° F (20° C) and try that also for a few minutes and see how you get on. Remember that you should not abandon the cold shower immediately as that will defeat all the hard work you have done in getting accustomed to that temperature. Once you start getting used to this, remind yourself that you are on this mission for at least a few weeks.

If you suffer from migraines, pain or a heart condition, check with your doctor that it is safe to do this procedure.

If you find that your depression and anxiety are markedly better and your overall health has improved, you will never have a hot shower again. Great savings on meds, water, electricity and there are no side effects at all!

Featured photo credit: Hugh Lunnon/Flickr via flickr.com

More by this author

Robert Locke

Author of Ziger the Tiger Stories, a health enthusiast specializing in relationships, life improvement and mental health.

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Last Updated on November 9, 2020

10 Real Reasons Why Breaking Bad Habits Is So Difficult

10 Real Reasons Why Breaking Bad Habits Is So Difficult

Bad habits expose us to suffering that is entirely avoidable. Unfortunately, breaking bad habits is difficult because they are 100% dependent on our mental and emotional state.

Anything we do that can prove harmful to us is a bad habit – drinking, drugs, smoking, procrastination, poor communication are all examples of bad habits. These habits have negative effects on our physical, mental, and emotional health.

Humans are hardwired to respond to stimuli and to expect a consequence of any action. This is how habits are acquired: the brain expects to be rewarded a certain way under certain circumstances. How you initially responded to certain stimuli is how your brain will always remind you to behave when the same stimuli are experienced.

If you visited the bar close to your office with colleagues every Friday, your brain will learn to send you a signal to stop there even when you are alone and eventually not just on Fridays. It will expect the reward of a drink after work every day, which can potentially lead to a drinking problem.

Kicking negative behavior patterns and steering clear of them requires a lot of willpower, and there are many reasons why breaking bad habits is so difficult.

1. Lack of Awareness or Acceptance

Breaking a bad habit is not possible if the person who has it is not aware that it is a bad one.

Many people will not realize that their communication skills are poor or that their procrastination is affecting them negatively, or even that the drink they had as a nightcap has now increased to three.

Awareness brings acceptance. Unless a person realizes on their own that a habit is bad, or someone manages to convince them of the same, there is very little chance of the habit being kicked.

2. No Motivation

Going through a divorce, not being able to cope with academic pressure, and falling into debt are instances that can bring a profound sense of failure with them. A person going through these times can fall into a cycle of negative thinking where the world is against them and nothing they can do will ever help, so they stop trying altogether.

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This give-up attitude is a bad habit that just keeps coming around. Being in debt could make you feel like you are failing at maintaining your home, family, and life in general.

If you are looking to get out of a rut and feel motivated, take a look at this article: Why Is Internal Motivation So Powerful (And How to Find It)

3. Underlying Psychological Conditions

Psychological conditions such as depression and ADD can make it difficult to start breaking bad habits.

A depressed person may find it difficult to summon the energy to cook a healthy meal, resulting in food being ordered in or consumption of packaged foods. This could lead to a habit that adversely affects health and is difficult to overcome.

A person with ADD may start to clean their house but get distracted soon after, leaving the task incomplete, eventually leading to a state where it is acceptable to live in a house that is untidy and dirty.

The fear of missing out (FOMO) is very real to some people. Obsessively checking their social media and news sources, they may believe that not knowing of something as soon as it is published can be catastrophic to their social standing.

4. Bad Habits Make Us Feel Good

One of the reasons it is difficult to break habits is that a lot of them make us feel good.[1]

We’ve all been there – the craving for a tub of ice cream after a breakup or a casual drag on a joint, never to be repeated until we miss how good it made us feel. We succumb to the craving for the pleasure felt while indulging in it, cementing it as a habit even while we are aware it isn’t good for us.

Overeating is a very common bad habit. Just another pack of chips, a couple of candies, a large soda… none of these are necessary for survival. We want them because they give us comfort. They’re familiar, they taste good, and we don’t even notice when we progress from just one extra slice of pizza to four.

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You can read this article to learn more: We Do What We Know Is Bad for Us, Why?

5. Upward Comparisons

Comparisons are a bad habit that many of us have been exposed to since we were children. Parents might have compared us to siblings, teachers may have compared us to classmates, and bosses could compare us to past and present employees.

The people who have developed the bad habit of comparing themselves to others have been given incorrect yardsticks for measurement from the start.

These people will always find it difficult to break out of this bad habit because there will always be someone who has it better than they do: a better house, better car, better job, higher income and so on.

Research shows that in the age of social media, social comparisons are much easier and can ultimately harm self-esteem if scrolling becomes a bad habit[2].

6. No Alternative

This is a real and valid reason why breaking bad habits is difficult. These habits could fulfill a need that may not be met any other way.

Someone who has physical or psychological limitations, such as a disability or social anxiety, may find it hard to quit obsessive content consumption for better habits.

Alternately, a perfectly healthy person may be unable to quit smoking because alternates are just not working out.

Similarly, a person who bites their nails when anxious may be unable to relieve stress in any other socially accepted manner.

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7. Stress

As mentioned above, anything that stresses us out can lead to adopting and cementing an unhealthy habit.

When a person is stressed about something, it is easy for bad habits to form because the mental resources required to fight them are not available[3].

We often see a person who had previously managed to kick a bad habit fall back into the old ways because they felt their stress couldn’t be managed any other way.

If you need some help reducing stress, check out the following video for some healthy ways to get started:

8. Sense of Failure

People looking to kick bad habits may feel a strong sense of failure because it’s just that difficult.

Dropping a bad habit usually means changes in lifestyle that people may be unwilling to make, or these changes might not be easy to make in spite of the will to make them.

Overeaters need to empty their house of unhealthy food, resist the urge to order in, and not pick up their standard grocery items from the store. Those who drink too much need to avoid the bars or even people who drink often.

If such people slip even once with a glass of wine, or a smoke, or a bag of chips, they tend to be excessively harsh on themselves and feel like failures.

9. The Need to Be All-New

People who are looking to break bad habits feel they need to re-create themselves in order to break themselves of their bad habits, while the truth is the complete opposite.

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These people actually need to go back to who they were before they developed the bad habit and try to create good habits from there.

10. Force of Habit

Humans are creatures of habit, and having familiar, comforting outcomes for daily triggers helps us maintain a sense of balance in our lives.

Consider people who are used to lighting up a cigarette every time they talk on the phone or eating junk food when watching TV. They will always associate a phone call with a puff on the cigarette and screen time with eating.

These habits, though bad, are a source of comfort to them, as is meeting with those people they indulge in these bad habits with.

Final Thoughts

These are the main reasons why breaking bad habits is difficult, but the good news is that the task is not impossible. Breaking habits takes time, and you’ll need to put long-term goals in place to replace a bad habit with a good one.

There are many compassionate, positive and self-loving techniques to kick bad habits. The internet is rich in information regarding bad habits, their effects and how to overcome them, while professional help is always available for those who feel they need it.

More on Breaking Bad Habits

Featured photo credit: NORTHFOLK via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] After Skool: Why Do Bad Habits Feel SO GOOD?
[2] Psychology of Popular Media Culture: Social comparison, social media, and self-esteem.
[3] Stanford Medicine: Examining how stress affects good and bad habits

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