Can cold showers really help alleviate anxiety symptoms? Let's take a look.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America1, anxiety and anxiety-related disorders are the most common type of mental illness in the United States, with over 19% of adults in the country suffering from these ailments. Given these statistics, it’s highly likely that someone you know is suffering from anxiety. Perhaps, you might even find yourself experiencing symptoms of anxiety from time to time.
If you experience anxiety, it’s important for you to seek professional help. Anxiety can be linked to many other mental health disorders, with many sufferers of anxiety often suffering from depression as well2. Apart from medication, cold showers are a solution that has been scientifically proven to release endorphins that can help with reducing anxiety in many individuals3.
In this article, we take a closer look at how exactly they work and review some of the other benefits that taking cold showers might have on your mental and physical well-being.
Do Cold Showers Really Help with Anxiety?
Research has shown that taking a cold shower for anxiety can actually be beneficial. In a study conducted by the Academic Medical Centre in Amsterdam, it was found that cold showers can help to reduce symptoms of anxiety in participants and alleviate the psychological stressors that are commonly linked with anxiety4.
Routine cold showers were also found to improve the holistic well-being of participants, contributing to a greater quality of life and work productivity5. Moreover, the study found that participants suffered no adverse side effects, bolstering support for cold showers as a risk-free practice that can contribute to improved physical and mental health6.
How Do Cold Showers Work?
When you take a cold shower, the nerve receptors on your skin are simultaneously activated by the temperature of the water, sending countless electrical signals to your brain. Given the high concentration of nerves on your skin, this can have a significant impact on the body’s sympathetic nervous systems, triggering a release of endorphins and noradrenaline into the bloodstream7.
These chemicals that are released into the bloodstream are closely linked to mental health and mood8. As a result, a sudden increase in the levels of endorphins and noradrenaline in your bloodstream can result in an improvement in your mood, counteracting the panic-inducing effects of anxiety. In other words, a cold shower can shock your body into releasing chemicals that can provide much needed relief if you’re experiencing a bout of anxiety.
Other Benefits of Taking Cold Showers
Apart from its benefits to mental health, cold showers have also been found to have numerous other advantages over hot showers, making them a beneficial addition to your daily routine. Here are some of the other reasons why you might want to consider taking cold showers regularly:
Improved Cardiovascular Health
Upon taking a cold shower, the body’s cardiovascular system responds immediately to the change in temperature by raising the cardiac output, by up to 100% in some instances. This results in higher arterial pressure, pulse pressure, and pulse rate, promoting improved blood flow and circulation throughout the body9.
Reduced Inflammation after Exercise
At the same time, cold showers can also be beneficial after a session of intense exercise, improving muscle recovery. Cold showers have been proven to result in the release of higher levels of cortisol, an essential hormone that is crucial to regulating inflammation in the body10. The higher levels of cortisol can help to reduce the inflammation in your muscles that is common after intense exercise, boosting recovery times and relieving pain11.
How to Incorporate Cold Showers into Your Daily Routine
If you’ve always shied away from cold showers, you might be wondering how you can incorporate it into your daily routine. Here are some tips that can help you start enjoying the benefits of cold showers on anxiety and your general well-being:
When taking cold showers for the first time, you might find the temperature too daunting. If that’s the case, start by taking a short cold shower before slowly increasing the duration.
For example, the first time you take a cold shower, you can start off with a cold shower before ending your shower with just 10 seconds under cold water. You can then gradually increase the length of the cold shower. As you become more comfortable with the temperature, you can also eventually phase out the hot water from your shower, taking your entire shower in cold water.
Control the Temperature
Another aspect of cold showers that you might be unsure about might be the temperature of the water. While you may not need to bathe in ice cold water to enjoy the benefits of a cold shower, it’s still important to ensure that the water is cold enough to trigger a response from your body’s sympathetic nervous system. If you use water that is not cold enough, you body might not release as much endorphins and noradrenaline, which may limit the improvements to your mood that you enjoy.
Generally, a temperature of between 50 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit is sufficient for you to enjoy the benefits of a cold shower. If you find that this temperature is too cold for you, consider starting out at a warmer temperature, such as with lukewarm water. Then, as you become more used to showering with cool water, gradually reduce the temperature of the water you use.