Did you know that even the ancient Egyptians took cold showers to feel good? Wim Hof may be on trend right now, but there are actually Egyptian medical texts dated 3500 B.C. with references to the application of cold as therapy. And more recent science is beginning to catch up too.
Most of us take a shower regularly anyway, and it's pretty easy to optimise your shower experience to improve you physical and mental health.
The scientific benefits of cold showers:
- A more robust immune response: Scientist credit that cold showers increase the amount of white blood cells in your body. White blood cells play an important role in your immune response; they help to destroy foreign invaders that threaten your health.
- Increased resilience to stress: Taking a cold shower places a slight amount of stress on the body, by doing so, your nervous system incrementally becomes better equipped to deal with moderate levels of stress. This process is known as hardening.
- Weight loss: Taking cold showers helps to stimulate your brown fat stores, this is the good fat (yes there is good fat!). Brown fat turns up the bodies metabolic system, and enables you to burn more calories.
- Improved mood: Studies have found that when taking a cold shower a great number of electrical impulses are sent from nerve endings to the brain, which may result in an anti- depressive effect. Exposure to cold has also been shown to induce production of beta- endorphin. This is a neurotransmitter that is responsible for creating a sense of well-being.
The unexpected benefits:
- Increased willpower: Willpower cannot stem from thin air; you must practice it! Cold showers are a brilliant way to test your willpower time and time again. You make the conscious decision to turn your shower dial to cold, by doing so your will power strengthens.
- Enforces the power of the breath: When taking a cold shower, it is important to remain calm and breathe long deep breaths. You will find this happens naturally: the body knows that in order to stay calm in a stressful situation it needs to breathe. If you have practiced yoga you have already practiced breathwork or ‘pranayama’ for a while, this is a chance to apply your superpower!
- It forces you to be in the present moment: Mindfulness and meditation are taking the world by storm, chances are you have already tried it. A cold shower is a very strong meditation practice, because it forces you to be present with your body and listen to it, you go from a state of stress to learning that your thoughts are not reality- all you have is NOW. Try and worry about some future event or ruminate over distressing thoughts under a cold shower, it is actually very difficult.
The journey of a thousand cold showers begins with the first one!
Start with just 15 seconds after your normal shower, begin with the peripheries and then gradually the rest of the body. Overtime build it up to 2 minutes and beyond to really reap the benefits. Empower your mind and body and you will empower your life!
Warning: Individuals should not practice cold showers when pregnant, after meals or during exercise. If you have health problems, especially cardiovascular issues like heart disease or are at risk of heart disease please consult a doctor first before practicing. It is also advised that if you are currently unwell or are recovering from an illness, avoid this practice as your immune system is already taxed.