Have you caught any of the videos on Instagram of people stepping into an ice bath? Or jumping into a freezing lake? They’re becoming more and more popular and you might be wondering, have these people lost their minds or do they simply like being cold? Either way, you might think, I won’t be doing any of that.
Listen, I come from a long line of warm-weather lovers. Being cold is not something I intentionally seek out, and yet I’ll admit I’m a total convert when it comes to cold showers and cold therapy. And I’m going to explain exactly why incorporating cold showers in your routine will help you feel better.
The Benefits of Cold Showers
The list of benefits is long.
Let’s start with your ENERGY AND ALERTNESS. By increasing circulation and stimulating your vascular system, cold water can provide you with an instant boost of energy and mental alertness. This is really great in the morning if you, like me, don’t feel your peppiest first thing in the day. If you’re dealing with chronic stress and burnout, feeling sluggish can be a regular part of your day—so can brain fog, poor memory and difficulty concentrating. Cold showers can help with your brain’s cognitive functions so that you feel more like yourself right away. The effects of a cold showers are faster than coffee.
Cold showers improve your IMMUNE FUNCTION. By increasing your white blood cells, the cold water helps you avoid getting sick during the cold and flu season. So many factors can lower your body’s immune function, including stress (sound familiar?), lack of good sleep, eating sugar and processed foods. A regular habit of cold showers can help you avoid getting that next cold.
Next let’s talk about how cold therapy can help relieve DEPRESSION AND ANXIETY. Cold temperatures provide anti-inflammatory healing (which can also help you recover from your next workout). A cold shower relieves depression by providing anti-inflammatory relief to the brain. You may notice how your mood is lifted after one.
Cold showers can help you to AVOID STRESS. That’s right. Similar to exercise, the controlled stress that the cold temperature provides builds resilience in the body so that you’re better able to handle future stressors. I mean, we can all use that, right?
Some other added benefits to a cold showers include relief from headaches, improved circulation, softer skin and shinier hair.
Where to Start
The great thing about cold showers is they’re a therapeutic and highly beneficial act of self-care that you can do without changing your current schedule. You already shower regularly (I’m assuming), so why not simply change how you shower?
You can take the smallest steps to get started; even 30 seconds in cold water at the end of your shower will yield positive results. With time and practice, you can start to build up your endurance to 3 minutes (or more) to start getting the full benefits.
If you have a cold shower 1-3 times per week, you’ll really start to notice their effects regularly.
It might seem daunting to step into cold water. I can totally relate and rarely do I start my shower on cold. This is how I do it:
- I start the water on the regular warm temperature I like. I do that for 30-60 seconds, then switch to cold water for 1 minute.
- I go back and forth like that until I’m finished my shower, always finishing on cold.
- The longer the shower, the more I get used to and even like the cold water (that was unexpected).
- To help with the counting (and I know this sounds silly but I want to make this as easy for you as I can), I sing the alphabet song at an even pace twice through before swapping, because I’ve figured out that singing that song once through is about 30 seconds. There. Now you know all my secrets.
Other Important Things to Know
I recommend being comfortably warm before you start your cold shower (it’s the big fluctuation in your body’s temperature that helps with the process). I also suggest having what you need to warm yourself up afterward available. That means your towel, warm clothes and a cozy blanket if you need. I find that after my shower, my body warms up pretty quickly on its own if I’m dressed properly and I end up feeling warmer than I did before the shower.
Mentally prepare yourself for the cold and encourage yourself through it. Breathe instead of tensing up.
If you’re in the middle of fighting a virus, I would wait until you’ve recovered.
If you have any chronic pain issues, be careful and consult your doctor or practitioner. Sometimes cold temperatures can either assist or harm our healing process, so it’s good to be mindful of that. In my case, I suffer from both chronic neck and back pain that are mostly triggered by stress. So as long as I’m mindful not to tense up, the stress relief from the cold shower actually helps me.
Always consult your primary healthcare provider before starting a treatment that may not be suitable for you. And listen to your body.
Give it a try and tell me how it went. How long did you have the cold on for? How did you feel afterwards?