Taking a cold shower may not be top of many people's to do list, but there are a number of refreshing reasons why turning down the temperature can benefit your mental and physical health, and save money and the environment.
Water therapy - also known as hydrotherapy - has been used for centuries to take advantage of the human body’s tendency to adapt to harsher conditions. As a result, our bodies can become more resistant to stress in a number of ways.
Here are five compelling reasons why taking a cold shower could be beneficial:
1. Release those happy chemicals
Taking a cold shower for up to four minutes, two to three times per week, was shown to help relieve symptoms of depression in a clinical trial.
Bathing in water has been linked to a decrease in the stress hormone, cortisol, as well as helping balance the feel-good neurotransmitter, serotonin, while showering in cooler water is associated with a release in endorphins.
However, while it can be an effective pick me up, people should not replace any prescribed depression treatments with cold showers.
2. Get your blood pumping
Cold water improves circulation and helps you feel more alert by triggering electrical impulses in the brain that boost your energy levels.
If you’ve just completed an intense workout, having a cold shower afterwards could help soothe tired and achy muscles. Wondering why? Cold water impacts circulation as the cooler temperature promote faster blood flow - allowing more blood to be delivered to sore areas.
3. Love those locks
Rinsing your head with cold water after you have shampooed could make your hair appear shinier. This is because warm water opens up the hair follicles so they can be cleaned and conditioned. Cold water, on the other hand, closes these follicles up, locking in any moisture and reducing the risk of your hair becoming dry and brittle over time.
Plus it is good for your scalp. Hot water can strip skin of its natural oils - including your scalp - so treating it to a cold shower keeps your scalp happy and hydrated, resulting in less itchiness, flaking or redness.
4. Wake up call
Taking a cold shower literally wakes the body up, and makes us feel more alert too.
Cold showers activate feel-good hormones by stimulating the natural sympathetic immune system, which leaves you feeling invigorated and wide awake. The cold against our skin also stimulates us to naturally take deeper breaths, which decreases the amount of CO2 in the body, which can help improve focus and concentration.
5. Splash the cash
Or at least don't watch it run down the drain!
Did you know about 53% of an average annual combined energy bill is from heating the water for showers, baths and hot water from the tap? And 70% of water used in the home is heated.
When we use hot water, we are using energy. In the UK for example, water use accounts for six per cent of the UK’s total carbon dioxide emissions, 89% of this comes from heating water in our homes.
In short - taking a shorter, colder, shower lowers your energy bills as you use less hot water and saves on your water bill as you use less water - all of which saves you money and helps reduce the impact on your local water supplies.
Where do I start?
The ideal way to take a cold shower is to ease in to the habit.
Start by slowly lowering the temperature at the end of your shower. Get the water cold enough that is starts to feel uncomfortable. Then, stay underneath the water for two or three minutes - it may be a bit of a shock, but breathing deeply will help decrease the discomfort.
The next time you try this exercise, make the water slightly colder. Try to last for another minute or two in the colder water. After showering like this seven to 10 times, you might even look forward to turning the hot water down!
Before you dive in
While it can have lots of health and wellbeing benefits, some people should exercise caution when taking cold showers. This includes people with weaker immune systems and those with serious heart conditions, such as congestive heart failure. This is because the sudden changes to body temperature and heart rate may overwhelm the body.
If you have any health conditions which could be affected by changes in temperature and heart rate, please consult a doctor first before taking the plunge into the world of cold showers.