If you’ve been living under a rock lately, then you might not have noticed that literally everyone and their dog is doing cold water therapy.
Some have even taken to doing it in their wheelie bin.
And while it’s easy to say, “Oh yes, very good” and nod politely when your work colleague starts going on about her wild swim at the weekend, it’s hard not to take notice of the supposed benefits of icy water.
People talk about how it totally took away their anxiety or gives them a major energy boost, rivalled only by some class-A drugs.
Popular health fanatics have been jumping on the snow wagon, too, with fitness influencer Joe Wicks saying, “If I’m stressed, if I’m anxious, if I’m burned out, when I get in the ice, it does something to my mind. It really helps me calm down and focus on my breathing.”
And some health experts are even suggesting that ice water bathing should be prescribed for mental health conditions, such as depression, anxiety and ADHD.
One in four of us in the UK will struggle with our mental health each year, so could cold water really provide some relief?
Here are the ways cold water can boost our mental health…
A healthy dopamine hit
Cold water immersion can actually increase our blood dopamine levels by a whopping 250%, proving that icy water could be a powerful and healthy swap for harmful dopamine-boosting behaviours like drugs and alcohol.
Low levels of both dopamine and norepinephrine are found in patients with depression and ADHD, but levels of norepinephrine increase up to 530% when the body is exposed to cold.
Control the breath, release stress
Using breathing techniques to help you cope with the cold and withstand it for longer is a form of mindfulness that’s widely publicised and used by the NHS when treating patients with mental health conditions.
Getting in a cold shower or bath is hard and the brain can be trained like a muscle to withstand more discomfort, improving our mental resilience to cope with stress better.
So, how to get started ice bathing? Danyl Bosomworth, the founder of ice bath company Brass Monkey, advises you to start slow: “Start with cold showers, build up from 30 seconds to a couple of minutes, then graduate to a cold outdoor dip.
“It’s not about how you get into the cold, just that you do.”
If you’re going to start cold water swimming, go with a friend or a community group who go regularly, as cold water shock is a real thing, and can be dangerous if you’re out swimming alone.
Take a friend, some cosy blankets and some hot drinks for after and enjoy a little brain bump of positivity from the cold water, which we have in abundance here in the UK.