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How Cold Showers Can Change Your Brain And Boost Your Mental Health

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How Cold Showers Can Change Your Brain And Boost Your Mental Health

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?

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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.

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“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.

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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.

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Melissa Atkinson

Freelance writer

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Last Updated on November 22, 2021

Thanksgiving: It’s About The Simple Things

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Thanksgiving: It’s About The Simple Things

Thanksgiving, a day of pure gluttony, football, and possible uncomfortable situations with family members that you may or may not like. Oh, yeah, and the whole “know and reflect on what it is to be thankful and grateful.”

During the holiday season many people forget what this time of year is bout and are too worried about getting the “early-bird” deals on Black Friday and making sure that they have the perfect gifts for their loved ones. I am sort of a “Grinch” when it comes to the holiday season, mostly because of that mentality by many of the poeple around me.

But instead of being grinch-like this holiday season, I decided to simplify things and get back to what this time of year is actually is about; being thankful for what I have and what I can give.

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Simplify

I’m not a “minimalist” in any real sense, but in the last few months the talks of Patrick Rhone and others have got me to rethink my stance. Can you really have too much stuff?

Absolutely.

And with all that stuff comes the burden and the weight of it on your back.

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If you feel that the things around you are out of control, maybe it’s time to simplify and be thankful and grateful for what you have and use. Here are a few things that you can do to simplify:

  • You know those gadgets in the drawer that you said you were going to sell? Well, time to get the listing on eBay and sell them. Or, send them to a place like Gazelle. Even if they are old and won’t get money, you can at least recycle them.
  • Get rid of things you don’t need. Like old books, clothes, tools, etc. Have something that’s been laying around forever with no use? Donate it to a charity or church. If you aren’t using it, someone else could be.
  • Find your productivity tools and stick with them. Use tools and gadgets that serve multiple purposes so you can simplify your tool set.

Be Mindful

You don’t have to be a master Buddhist or meditator to be mindful (although, it can definitely help). Being mindful comes down to being cognizant of the present and not keeping yourself in the past or future. It’s about living in the moment and being aware of yourself and everything around you. It’s just being.

Without getting too “California” on you, it is super important to be mindful during the holiday rush. Rather than worrying about the things that you forgot at your house on the way to relatives or thinking about the next stop in your endless holiday travels, just breath and think about what you are currently doing.

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Spend the time with your family and friends and don’t crush the moment. Try not to concentrate so hard on getting the perfect photo of the “awesome moment” of the day and actually miss the awesome moment.

Being mindful over the holidays will help you be with your families, friends, and yourself allowing you to enjoy your time.

Reflect

As the year is coming to a close (yes, it really is that close!) it’s a great time to start reflecting on what you have accomplished and what you haven’t. Within the next few weeks we will have a more throrough reflection article here at Lifehack.org, but reflecting every now and then over your holiday break is a great way to see where you have been doing well in your life and where you need to improve.

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Reflection shouldn’t be used to “get down” on yourself. Reflection should be used to take an honset inventory of what you have accomplished, how you handeled situations, and what you can do better. If you journal everyday (a daily form of reflection) it may be a good time to start going over some of the things that you have written and start to put together a year’s end journal entry. I mean, how else will you write your autobiography?

But, seriously, reflecting on yourself makes you aware of your successes and faults and helps you plan and make goals for the coming year. It makes you a better person.

So, while you are stuffing your face with bird, stuffing, and mashed taters’, remember that the holidays are much more than the superficial things. Use this holiday to become a better person.

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Featured photo credit: Libby Penner via unsplash.com

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