Imagine stepping into the tub and the water begins to speckle your feet. Slowly as the water falls down your arms, belly, thighs, and calves, you notice the near blistering sensation of the freezing water. Maybe you let out a little wail or an entire scream, or you burst into ridiculous laughter. You shake your body and allow the cold water to fall all around you as you breathe deeply and wait for the minute to pass. So, why on earth would anyone want to take a cold shower to start their day? Well —
1. It Reduces Anxiety and Depression
In the early days of last summer, I had an ever-growing sense of impending doom — otherwise known as anxiety. Having never experienced this sort of anxiousness, I was at a complete loss when I would wake up shaking or have to scream in the car to let off the tension building in my body. One day, desperate for relief, I saw some TikTok that said to eat ice cubes if you’re feeling anxious. I made a b-line for the freezer and shoved a couple of cubes in my mouth.
Fast forward and I have found myself jumping into a cold shower every morning. I didn’t plan for this but after the first few showers, I noticed the complete euphoria that I experienced upon stepping out onto the bathmat. As it turns out, I had not imagined this. Taking cold showers has been shown to reduce both depression and anxiety. A 2007 study, showed that “exposure to cold is known to activate the sympathetic nervous system,” and 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.” Basically, a cold shower is like super mild electro-shock therapy.
2. Increases Alertness
Renowned actress Katherine Hepburn was well-known for many reasons, one of which was her penchant for cold showers. Espousing the belief that her daily cold showers boosted her energy and made her more beautiful, Hepburn was a total cold shower convert. As it turns out, cold showers do “stimulate our sympathetic nervous system,” which is responsible for our fight-or-flight response. These hormones get released and we experience a rush of adrenaline that leaves us alert and buzzing when we step out of the tub.
3. It Refines Your Hair and Skin
Many people who swear by the cold shower, do so because of its beauty benefits. More specifically — cold showers are magical for your hair and skin. Those pipping hot showers that everyone is used to taking tend to dry out our skin, as they pull out all of our natural oils. Coldwater on the other hand tightens our skin as it constricts blood flow and prevents pores from getting clogged. As you rinse freezing cold water through your hair, you’re also boosting your shine. Coldwater helps hair stay stronger and healthier by flattening hair follicles.
4. It Improves Immunity and Circulation
I’d always imagined that I’d try a cold shower experiment in the hot summer months, but as it turns out the winter is a great time for a chilly rinse. While we are taking our vitamins and supplements and trying our best to stay healthy, we should all add a cold shower to the list because cold water “can improve circulation by encouraging blood to surround our organs, which can then help combat some problems of the skin and heart.” As the water hits your body, and the blood begins to circulating more efficiently, it boosts our overall heart health. What’s better than a healthy heart?
5. It Speeds Up Muscle Recovery
When we get injured, our first thought is to grab that bag of frozen peas and press it onto the sprain or break. This is because exposure to cold, especially cold water on your body, triggers a beneficial anti-inflammatory norepinephrine release. Anything that is anti-inflammatory is going to boost your overall well-being, but it is especially going to aid in muscle recovery. Numerous studies have shown that cold water exposure after resistance training was one of the most effective ways to relieve sore muscles.
6. It Eases Stress
Over the years, I’ve noticed that I like doing things that build grit and resilience. I like to hone in on a mentality that says, “Oh this thing is hard? Well, I’ve done this other hard thing and therefore I know I just have to keep breathing.” Jumping into a cold shower without acclimating to it, helps increase my physical (and emotional) tolerance to stress. Breathing through the initial shock of the frigid water allows me to find my center.
This is one of the core benefits promoted by Wim Hof, also known as the Ice Man, and a major proponent of cold-exposure therapy. The Wim Hof Method promotes the stress-reducing exercise of extreme cold-exposure. Imposing a small amount of stress on your body through cold water, you cultivate a sense of perseverance, that helps you “keep a cool head, the next time you find yourself in a stressful situation.” So, not only are you energized with great skin and hair, but you are also at a more grounded equilibrium when it comes to stress levels.
7. It Increases Productivity
Now that you look great and your muscles aren’t sore and you’re totally destressed, your cold shower will also boost your productivity. Starting the day with a cold rinse may seem torturous at first, but the burst of energy and excitement is seriously amazing. A study in the Netherlands involved 3,000 participants found that those who took a 30–90 second cold shower were “29% less absent than their colleagues after just 30-days of the trial.”
Everyone from James Bond to the Spartans, to (of course) people in Finland have been using cold-exposure for health and mental benefits for centuries. The medicinal value of cold water has been strung through cultures and traditions around the world. Maybe you watched the most recent Goop episode about Wim Hof and want to make your life a little goopier, or perhaps you’re like me and found yourself jamming ice cubes into your mouth hoping for relief from crippling anxiety — either way, I promise you that the benefits are transformative. There are not many things we can do for 30–90 seconds that actually make a change in our lives, but cold showers may just be a magic bullet.