Have you ever taken a cold swim? How does it make you feel? After you get over the initial shock of the cold, it’s usually very stimulating. This is because when you enter a cold temperature quickly, your blood moves from the surface of your body to the core, and this helps bathe your brain and organs in fresh blood while also cleaning out your system.
What if I told you that a cold shower can also offer relief from depression and anxiety without the side effects, complications, and costs of prescription medications?
The Science Behind
Molecular biologist Nikolai Sheychuk found evidence of this in his 2007 study. His results showed that cold showers used regularly, might even be more effective than prescription antidepressants.
It Activates Your Nervous System
Sheychuk’s study found that when exposed too cold, the sympathetic nervous system is activated, and the blood level of beta-endorphin and noradrenaline is increased. Norepinephrine, an organic chemical that functions in the brain and body as a hormone that can help people feel happier, naturally is released in the brain as well. The cold water can also increase production of beta endorphins, or ‘feel good’ molecules that will give you a sense of wellbeing. Additionally, due to the high density of cold receptors in the skin, a cold shower is expected to send an overwhelming amount of electrical impulses from peripheral nerve endings to the brain, which could result in an anti-depressive effect.
“The mechanism that can probably explain the immediate mood-lifting effect of immersion in cold water or cold shower is probably the stimulation of the dopaminergic transmission in the mesocorticolimbic and nigrostriatal pathway. “These dopaminergic pathways are known to be involved in the regulation of emotions. There is a lot of research linking these brain areas to depression,” Sheychuk said.
It Reduces Your Anxiety
Patients suffering from generalized anxiety disorders were studied, comparing the use of hydrotherapy to the use of the medication Paxil. During the study, 237 patients with generalized anxiety disorder were assigned randomly to balneotherapy (using water baths for healing) and 120 to the medication Paxil, a leading SSRI medication. The patients given the balneotherapy treatment, had weekly medical visits and daily bath treatments using mineral waters for 21 days. The anxiety scores showed an improvement in both groups, however the group given the water therapy had the higher result compared to those given the Paxil. Remission and sustained response rates were also significantly higher in the hydrotherapy group, as well as no reported side effects.
Create your own hydrotherapy at home.
You can use your shower at home to expose your body to cold water. Start with a shower at a comfortable warm temperature. Slowly cool the water down over a 5-minute period, until your water gets down to 68°F, or until it’s almost too cold to tolerate. Stand in the cold water for 2 to 3 minutes. Some cold water enthusiasts use the “all-at-once” method, saying that sudden immersion into cold water is more effective.
Do what works for you. Give this a try for a few weeks, even if you can only tolerate the cold water for 30 seconds like me. If the invigorating experience doesn’t get you hooked, the amazing mood-lifting and health supporting benefits just might.