No, it’s not what you think, though that will probably work too.

It’s an age old remedy prescribed by everyone from Hippocrates to Thomas Jefferson, (he used a foot bath). It goes by many different descriptions, hydrotherapy, cold exposure, and such.

The very basic thinking is this, before central heating and air conditioners we as humans were exposed to often greatly varying degrees in temperature, well those of us that aren’t living on the equator at least.

Exposing yourself to cold, voluntarily, has been proven to have certain benefits, weight loss being one, and improvement in mood being the one I’m interested in, or have discovered in the last couple of weeks again.

How does cold exposure work?

Well, the losing weight one is pretty obvious. Your body maintains your core temperature at around 37 degrees Celsius. It uses energy, apparently mostly from fat, to do this. If it is cold outside, your body needs to crank up the furnace to keep you from not freezing to death, burning more calories.

It has been said that obesity is not only due to “chronic over-nutrition” but also due to “chronic warmth” i.e. we never shiver anymore. Being exposed to cold builds up what is called ‘brown fat’ that burns calories to produce heat to keep your toes on your body. No cold exposure, no brown fat, no increased burning of calories.

Can cold exposure help with depression and mood?

Ever had that super invigorating feeling after jumping into a cold pool, or icy stream? Or that shot of adrenaline plunging into cold water after a hot sauna? Well there is a reason for that, several in fact.

So here is the thinking on the mechanics behind cold exposure and mood. Firstly, the cold make your surface vessels to constrict forcing all the warm blood to the core of the body to conserve the heat and, you guessed it, it forces the warm, nutrient rich, oxygenated blood straight into that depressed brain of yours in order to keep it alive. This is the rush that you feel.

Also cold water exposure has been used, especially in foot baths (ala Thomas Jefferson for stress relief), several studies have been done comparing cold exposure to anti depressants, with similar, if not better, results with the cold exposure. Also water is much less expensive, with no side effects (other than drowning, but don’t be stupid).

How to do cold exposure

Simple really, end your shower every morning with as much cold as you can stand. Try to go for 2 minutes with the cold tap on full blast. That is what I have been doing for the past few weeks, enjoy that image of me in the shower :),  and it gives me a kick-start for sure, if only to wake me up it works. Cold exposure has been known to give a similar result to electro shock therapy, which has been used in treating drug resistant depression.

Routines are important for people like me who struggle with mood, and depression. Having a rhythm, I prefer that word to routine, gets me going every morning. I don’t have to think about anything, I can think myself right into some pretty awful places, the rhythm saves me, and a healthy rhythm primes the rest of my day.

There fore, after my glass of water, the cup of coffee, then exercise, it is now a damn sexy cold shower.

Your turn

Here is the challenge, try it, for a week, 7 days, and come back and post here what your experience was?


image courtesy of Shutterstock

Sources

A Cold Splash–Hydrotherapy for Depression and Anxiety

The Benefits of being Cold