A nice hot shower might sound like the best way to relax, but research shows you might want to turn your faucet handle the other way. A cold shower may have mental and physical health benefits that will make you reconsider your aversion to chilly water. Don’t worry. I tried it, and a cold shower is not that bad.
Mental health benefits
Some scientists suspect cold showers could help treat depression. Cold water activates your sympathetic nervous system and sends electrical impulses from the peripheral nerve endings to the brain. Some research has found this may have pain-relieving and anti-depressive effects.
The initial shock of cold water can be invigorating, help send fresh oxygen to the brain, and help balance the feel-good neurotransmitter serotonin. In one study, researchers found that turning a shower cold for just five minutes helped participants relieve symptoms of depression. While a cold shower isn’t going to cure your depression, it might help relieve some of your symptoms.
Physical health benefits
Not only could you potentially improve your mental health with a cold shower, but frigid water might help improve you physically as well:
- Help sore muscles recover more quickly
- Wake you up more quickly in the morning
- Improve hair and skin (hot water dries you out, while cold water hydrates)
- Make it easier to fall asleep by cooling you down before bed
- Improve circulation
Implementing the cold shower
You might be sold on the benefits of a cold shower, but not so much on actually taking one. I decided to test how bearable a cold shower is, and find out whether I could see any of the promised positive effects. (You should know that I tried this experiment in the summer. I’m not sure I could have done it in the winter, since where I live gets very cold and tap water gets colder too.)
I think the best cold shower method isn’t cold from start to finish. It’s a modified cold shower. You either start your shower cold for the first three to five minutes, and then slowly warm the shower up, or you finish cold during the last three to five minutes, slowly cooling the water down. I suggest starting cold if you shower in the morning, to invigorate and wake up, or finishing cold, to help you decrease your body temperature before bed, if you prefer taking your shower at night.
It is going to be cold, but it’s like jumping into a chilly pool: just do it and you will gradually get used it, and by the end of your three to five minutes it won’t feel uncomfortable. To time how long I was in the cold water, I would start a song that I knew was about the right length. Rather than counting seconds and minutes, I was just enjoying a good song until it was time to warm my shower up or hop out.
While I don’t have a way to tell whether the cold showers really affected my mood, I can say they helped my skin and hair feel less dry and helped me fall asleep faster at night. I thought this was going be to a miserable week-long experiment, but I found it worthwhile. It’s been a few weeks since I started the experiment, and I am still taking adapted cold showers.
Try committing to taking adapted cold showers for one week and see if it improves your mental and/or physical health.
Tell the community whether the cold shower method worked for you by commenting below.