Also known as cold water immersion or cold water exposure, this practice is rapidly gaining popularity among individuals seeking to boost their physical and mental health.
Recent research has revealed that immersing the body in cold water for short periods of time can have a positive impact on mood, anxiety, and even depression.
When you first immerse yourself in cold water, your body responds with a stress response, a mechanism that has been around for millions of years to help us cope with potential threats. However, with each repeated session, the stress response is reduced, and the body adapts to this stress. This adaptation process is known as “cross adaptation,” and it has been shown to help reduce chronic stress, inflammation, and even more complex mental health problems.
Immersing yourself in icy water triggers the release of stress hormones, such as noradrenaline and cortisol, which may explain why many people say that a dip in cold water wakes them up and makes them feel alert. Studies have also reported increases in brain chemicals that regulate mood, such as dopamine, following a cold soak, which may explain the post-swim “high” feeling that many people experience.
Putting your face in cold water can also activate the parasympathetic branch of the nervous system, which prompts the body to relax after a stressful event. This can help people feel calm and reduce inflammation.
Due to the high density of cold receptors in the skin, a cold shower is expected to send an overwhelming amount of electrical impulses from peripheral nerve endings to the brain, which could result in an anti-depressive effect.
And we hear you ask … how long and how often? Latest science-supported Soeberg Protocol suggests doing deliberate cold exposure for 11 minutes per week TOTAL. NOT per session, but rather, 2-4 sessions lasting 1-5 mins each distributed across the week. Again, the water temperature should be uncomfortably cold yet safe to stay in for a few minutes. You can do more, but this should be the minimum to achieve the benefits of cold exposure. You can do very cold, very brief exposures for adrenaline release too, but the 11 minutes is based on a recent study that explored a range of effects and is a good solid, basic protocol for ongoing use.
If you are interested in trying cold water therapy, you can book into try Contrast ( Hot/Cold) therapy. If you are unsure you can book an appointment to speak with one of our wellbeing practitioners.
Those who are sensitive to cold temperatures or with any circulatory conditions. Anyone with severe anxiety, open sores, pregnant, or with a pacemaker should not do this treatment. If you are unsure, please consult with your medical practitioner.