• Megan Benzik

Ice, Ice Baby. It's Time for some Cold Shower Therapy.

Personally, I LOVE super hot, almost burning your skin, showers. I get cold pretty easily and I REALLY dislike everything about the cold, which should say something about the benefits of taking a cold shower. If I am willing to do it daily, it has to be well worth it!


Every morning I start off my shower with hot water to clean myself before switching to cold. When it’s time, I set my timer to get started and I stare at the temperature knob for a second. This is when my mind begins to battle back and forth as I reach for the handle. I have already committed. I know that if I give in to my mind for just ONE day, that every day after will be exponentially harder. So every morning, I grab the handle anyways, turn it to the coldest setting, and then begin to take deep, calming breaths as I feel the water change from hot to warm to ice cold. I then rotate myself underneath the freezing water as I focus on my breath for 3 minutes straight, which actually feels more like 20 minutes. The whole time I am forced to keep my self-talk positive, and accepting because there is nothing about standing under freezing cold water that is comfortable. Starting my day with overcoming one of my biggest discomforts, is extremely empowering and helps me start my day off right!


Making myself learn how to become comfortable in discomfort is half the reason I do it every single day. It’s a mental battle that I refuse to lose at. By choosing discomfort, and forcing myself to accept the cold, I am getting my mind ready for anything uncomfortable that may come my way.


Besides the mental win, there are multiple physical benefits to taking cold showers


Increases Endorphins, Relieves Depression, Decreases Stress


The cold water seems to work like a gentle electroshock therapy by sending many electrical impulses to your brain. These electrical impulses essentially wake up your system by increasing alertness, clarity, and energy levels. Endorphins, which are sometimes called happiness hormones, are also released. This effect leads to more energy and an increase in feelings of well-being and optimism. Click here to read a study done on this.


Improves Circulation and Reduces Inflammation


When you immerse yourself in cold water, your blood vessels shrink, which flushes out most of the blood and inflammation in the area. Since the human body is always working to maintain homeostasis, it begins to push fresh, warm blood to the area in an attempt to maintain the normal human core body temperature. When blood and inflammation are flushed out of an area in the body, the new blood being forced into the area is fresh, oxygenated, and nutrient-dense. This helps in distributing nutrients throughout your body more effectively and efficiently, which helps in proper overall functioning.


Increases Metabolism and Helps with Digestion


The other reasons mentioned above also contribute to increasing your metabolism and helping with digestion. For example, the feel good hormones mentioned above that are released also help with increasing your metabolism. When it comes to body temperature, the human body has to work hard to maintain an ideal body temperature when submerged in cold. By working harder, the body is essentially burning more calories. In addition to working harder, the fresh blood flow and nutrients distributed throughout the body allows for better digestion. The most direct link to increasing metabolism has to do with the types of fat the human body carries. As a brief summary, white fat is unhealthy (it’s associated with obesity and heart disease) and brown fat is healthy (its what we are all born with). It has been shown that when a person has a healthy level of brown fat, white fat is decreased. Cold water has been shown to activate brown fat in the body. When brown fat is activated, white fat (the bad kind) decreases. Of course, this works best when used in conjunction with healthy eating and exercise, but it’s still a pretty cool perk. =] 


Keeps your Immune System Healthy


Our bodies are designed to become resistant to the elements we are exposed to. Leukocytes, for example, help to fight infections in the body. The shock of cold water is enough of a shock to stimulate the body to make more leukocytes. This means that taking cold showers can increase your resistance to common illnesses, like colds and the flu. This study showed a 30% decrease in the amount of sickness absence among employees who regularly practiced cold shower therapy. This study even indicated that cold showers could make the body more resistant to certain types of cancer. 


Now that you realize how many health benefits there are, I am sure you are wondering exactly HOW to maximize them!




How to Practice:

The main goal is to keep yourself submerged in cold water for 2-3 minutes.

  1. Wash yourself using warm or hot water

  2. Turn the handle to cold and begin to take slow, deep breaths (the breathing is a game changer!)

  3. Focus on embracing and accepting the cold as you begin to rotate your body under the water for 1-3 minutes

  4. Switch back to warm/hot if needed to warm up before you end your shower

  5. Feel accomplished, energized, and ready to start your day!


Precautions:


  • Any temperature under 70 degrees is considered cold. To be sure, I always go to the coldest setting

  • If you shower before bed, end with some hot water to create a calming effect before bed. If you shower in the morning, don’t warm yourself up too much before coming out because you experience more of the benefits when your body has to work to warm itself up.

  • If you have Raynaud’s, as I do, try to keep your hands and feet out of the cold water as much as possible. ALWAYS warm your hands and feet back up with warm/hot water before you are done showering.

  • Always consult a doctor before trying anything new. NEVER stop any medication without consulting your doctor. This practice is best used in conjunction with whatever medication you are currently on.  


Action Step:


Start with 30 seconds/day and slowly work your way up to 3 minutes.

Challenge yourself to give this a try for a month straight and pay attention to any changes you notice!


I have noticed improvements specifically in my complexion, in reducing systemic inflammation, and in increasing my overall energy throughout the day!


Comment your results below!


References: https://www.healthline.com/health/cold-shower-benefits#takeaway https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4049052/ https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S030698770700566X https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5025014/

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