So, in our previous blog, we talked about what cold water immersion is and the craze surrounding it. Cold water immersion (CMI) is where you plunge your body into ice-cold water, usually in an ice bath, pool, or open water. But this also works for at-home cold showers.
Be sure to check over our recent blog before attempting any cold-water immersion, as there are loads of safety tips to consider – you may also want to read our blog on cold open water swimming for even more useful tips.
Many folks have been claiming that cold water immersion does wonders for your mental health, so let’s look at exactly why this is!
Mental health is at the top of many people’s agendas these days especially following the COVID-19 pandemic, which saw people becoming isolated and struggling with lockdowns. At Beyond Swim, we always believe you should put your mental health above all else; after all, you cannot look after anyone else if you don’t take time to look after yourself first!
Because we care so much about mental health, you can bet that we were totally on board with knowing that cold water immersion can help aid better mental health. Now it’s important to note that there is limited scientific research on the benefits of cold-water immersion for mental health, but anecdotally, there is an abundance. And we think personal experience is integral when discussing mental health because everyone’s experience is different. We will also be covering many of our community’s stories surrounding open-water swimming and mental health – so keep your eyes peeled for those soon.
How Cold-Water Immersion Can Help Your Mental Health
Okay, so how can cold water immersion help your mental health then, and how do people feel the benefits?
Stress Resilience and Relief
It has been seen that submerging your body into the depths of cold water can act as a temporary de-stressor. This is because the cold puts our body into survival mode, where it can only focus on exactly what is happening at the current moment in time. This is because your sympathetic mode is activated, which is another form of stress but different to what you likely experience day-to-day.
So, while you can destress from office life, you can also build resilience that you can take back to normal life after your cold-water immersion.
From the research that has been conducted, it has been found that cold water immersion does, in fact, help with increasing the production of our happy hormones such as dopamine, endorphins and noradrenaline. These are all hormones that can drastically improve symptoms of depression, and the thrill you get from delving into cold water can help improve your mood instantly.
Much like the stress relief aspect of cold-water immersion, because our skin is absolutely packed with cold receptors, our nerve endings become hyper-stimulated by it too. Once they feel the cold, they send a bunch of sensory information directly to your brain, which is thought to have antidepressant effects.
More experts are now looking further than the brain when it comes to our mental health and how other stresses on our body may contribute to our overall mental well-being and things like stress and depression. As researchers begin to dig deeper into how cold-water immersion helps us, they are beginning to look at how it can benefit systemic inflammation and how that directly impacts our mental health.
Bonding with Teammates and Friends
Whether you’re committing to adding cold water immersion to your everyday life, be it via a cold shower at home or attempting open water swimming, ice baths or plunge pools – the reward of committing to something new can massively help your mind.
It is also a fantastic excuse to meet up with a couple of teammates or friends to take on the experience with you. This is a fun way for you to bond with others while staying safe, and it’s been widely proven that social interactions with others are one of the best ways to improve mental health.
A Cool Mind
Taking on a new hobby or challenge can be a brilliant way of boosting your mental well-being. Cold-water immersion has heaps of benefits, and so many people advocate for how it has helped them overcome mental challenges that it seems like a natural solution if you may be struggling.
Why not give it a go with a couple of friends and see how you feel – we’d love to hear how you get on and even share your stories!
Feel free to send us your experiences to firstname.lastname@example.org, and together, we can help improve other people’s mental health via the fun of open-water swimming and cold-water immersion.