While much is being discussed improving mental health, very few know that quick, short-burst ice baths can have an incredible effect on your exhausted cognitive functionality and can encourage the production of endorphins; we love anything that makes us feel good right and if you can improve your mental health as a result of cold water plunging – then let’s give this a crack!
A Nutritionist from Newlives Nutrition; said ‘The repetitive exposure to cold water over a number of weeks and months, between 3°C and 15°C impacts positively the physiological markers of stress. The release of cortisol and subjective stress perception was shown in studies to lessen when someone had 3-4 ice baths per week’
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Other professionals have also confirmed the astonishing connection between ice baths and their positive impact on one’s mental health however by exploring the scientific research surrounding ice baths and mental health, this article will help you understand how ice baths can do wonders for one’s mental well-being.
Ice Baths- An Ancient Practice of Improving Mental Health
Freeze Tub Solo and Pro
Those who think that taking a dip in ice-cold water or swimming in ice water for a few minutes to improve mental health is a new concept must know that the benefits of this practice were first discovered in 400 BC. Hippocrates discovered that ice-cold water therapy is a great way to get rid of fatigue.
However, back then, there were no scientific ways to prove that. Presently, much research conducted in a controlled environment with adequate scientific methods over the years has confirmed this ancient claim.
Studies are still ongoing with what actually happens to the body under cold water situations, over certain time frames but your body has been shown to respond quite well to increase its resilience to certain things that could often manifest into concerning issues as we get older.
Benefits of Ice Baths
The health benefits of Ice Baths go far beyond what we’ve said here so don’t question a health practitioner if they suggest you get soaked in ice-cold water for a while, and if you’re dealing with depression, anxiety, or other mental issues, there may be some strong evidence that could help so they are suggesting it for a reason.
Below mentioned is a quick rundown of some notable benefits of ice baths.
Increase the Production of Endorphins
Are you always feeling low and in a bad mood? You could blame it on the weather, especially in winter right? But if we look clinically at this, a bad mood could be blamed on the low production of endorphins or, the feel-good hormones we hear so much about.
Endorphins are best known for reducing pain perceptions, minimising stress, promoting a sense of relaxation, and encouraging a feeling of pleasure and reward. All in all, it keeps you in a good mood. Exercise can also do this and funnily enough, eating fibre can do this to a small degree but there needs to be more studies to confirm this.
But I will expand and say, the relationship between our immune health (80% of the immune system is in your gut) and the communications our gut has with our brain, there is a strong correlation that improving our digestion, our microbiome, and overall gut health has an impact on our mental wellbeing also.
But I digress, so back on these feel-good Endorphins – if their production is lower, you may feel slightly off and always remain irritated.
Well, researchers have confirmed that a dip in ice-cold water can fix the low endorphins production.
As one gets exposed to cold water, the sympathetic nervous system gets activated, and beta-endorphin and noradrenaline levels increase in the blood.
When skin is exposed to cold water, the high density of cold receptors in the skin shoots up, and you experience a huge electrical impulse from the peripheral nerve. This creates an antidepressant effect, and you feel good.
Helps your get rid of MDD
MDD, or Major Depressive Disorder, is a serious concern and requires long-term medicine dependency. However, ice-cold exposure could help improve the way this is approached and should complement any alternative treatment a person is having – why not I say!
A study conducted on a 24-year-old woman, who was suffering from MDD post her daughter’s birth, was not showing improvement after being on fluoxetine and citalopram, drugs to help support MDD. She then was suggested an open cold water swimming, and the results were astonishing. She recorded a high level of cytokine and reduced symptoms of MDD.
The same research confirmed that cold water swimming:
- Promote the release of beta-endorphins, dopamine, and serotonin,
- Stimulates the vagus nerve,
- Generates an anti-inflammatory response.
High Level of Norepinephrine
If we talk about good mental health, then it’s important to mention that a high level of norepinephrine is crucial for this.
Norepinephrine, a neurotransmitter, promotes high cognitive abilities and increased focus as well as its importance to increase blood pressure during stress.
Ice baths put your body under hypothermic stress, and at this stage, your body starts releasing more norepinephrine. A 2-minute immersion into ice-cold water is enough to increase the norepinephrine level significantly.
Become More Resistant to Stress
We’re all under a little bit of stress every so often, and in some cases – a lot! Managing stress is different for everybody. Some handle it well, some not so well and others need to intervene and help out. Whatever it might be for you, stress is generally going to be present at some point in our lives
If you often find yourself under stress and want to improve your stress resilience, you might want to suck it up and plunge into 400L of freaking cold water.
It has been observed that even a short-term immersion of the body in ice-cold water promotes hardening and increases one’s resilience toward stress.
As one is exposed to cold water, the body and mind go through strenuous situations that increase tolerance power, making individuals less prone to stress.
You have the option of jumping in a cold shower or using 500L of water in your bathtub, only to tip it out 5 minutes later, but we’ve noticed the consistency of cold water plunging in the family bath is low for these reasons.
It’s a little like having a home gym, there’s just a little more consistency and action taken when you have a gym membership.
It’s the same with owning an Ice Bath, the Freeze Tub Solo is a portable Ice Bath that can be filled up and the water can stay in for up to 5-6 plunges, and sometimes more if you decide to use salt.
Is it Always a Great Deal?
If you decide to improve your mental health by taking regular, ice baths, we see it as being a risk-free approach.
Introducing your body to extremely cold water certainly has some obvious risks, and you should know them well so we encourage you to talk to your healthcare professional to see if you should be trialing Ice Baths to improve your mental health.
Your Dr can advise you of the risks associated with cold water plunging.
Frequently Asked Questions:
What is an Ice Bath?
An Ice Bath is a bath with water having temperatures ranging from 50°F (10°C) to 59°F (15°C) but after regular use of your Freeze Tub, you can lower the temperature to 5°C to increase your benefits associated with cold water immersion.
What should be the duration of an Ice Bath?
Depending upon the temperature of the water, an ice bath can last anywhere between 2 to 15 minutes. Ice bath for any length of time requires supervision.
Can Ice Baths Treat Depression?
As ice baths support the release of serotonin and norepinephrine, they can help in reducing stress and symptoms of depression but it is advised to discuss this with your health care professional.
Are cold showers and ice baths the same?
Essentially, yes. Cold showers and ice baths have the same impact on the mind and body as long as they are done for the same duration and water temperature. In saying this, the average temperature of cold tap water tends to sit at a higher temperature than what your Freeze Tub Solo or Pro can sit at. Plus, if you’re paying for water, you may as fill up your Freeze Tub instead and save some money.
There is ample evidence proving that ice baths have a substantial influence to improve your mental health.
They can promote the production of endorphins, a decrease in symptoms of sadness and anxiety, activation of the stress response system, and improved cognitive performance.
However, it’s imperative to contact a healthcare practitioner before adopting this cold water immersion therapy, as it has some potential dangers.