Maybe you've tried it before, or perhaps you've been contemplating it. You might even be growing weary of the constant influx of Instagram posts featuring people gasping in circular tubs.
Regardless of your stance, understanding the benefits of ice baths on your body and mind is essential before taking the plunge. So, without further ado, here are the top 10 benefits of ice baths you might not know.
1. Belief in Yourself as a Partner/Significant Other
According to Dr. Susanna Soeberg, ice baths promote the release of a hormone called oxytocin. Like seratonin or endorphins, oxytocin increases those juicy positive feelings in your body when released.
Our body naturally releases this hormone when we're sexually excited by our partner or when we fall in love. Individuals experiencing depression often show low levels of oxytocin due to their belief that they have nothing to offer the world or another person.
The more we expose ourselves to the cold, the more we can increase feelings of 'being worthy' of another human. Studies also show oxytocin increases your ability to trust and feel relaxed with your partner or love interest.
2. Improved Circulation
Cold water causes blood vessels to constrict, directing blood towards vital organs. Upon exiting the cold, these vessels dilate, promoting increased blood flow. This enhanced circulation can alleviate sore muscles and accelerate recovery after strenuous workouts.
Furthermore, the dilation of blood vessels helps cleanse the bloodstream by flushing out toxins, effectively contributing to overall blood maintenance.
3. A Boost in Sex Drive
Improved circulation not only benefits your physical health but also your sexual wellness. Dr. Oberdan Marianetti, a psychologist and clinical sexologist based in Singapore, explains that cold exposure and deep breathing can improve the cardiovascular system, which is crucial for a satisfying sexual experience.
"Physiologically, a healthy cardiovascular system and a robust nervous system are vital for an enjoyable sexual experience since both the penis and vulva rely on strong blood flow for engorgement, leading to pleasurable intercourse."
Dr. Oberdan emphasizes that cold exposure serves as a fundamental "workout" for the cardiovascular system, potentially leading to a more immediate and reliable physical experience. For obvious reasons, this is one ice bath benefit we feel should never be overlooked.
4. Weight Loss
According to Gary Brecka, the CEO of 10x Health System, "More so than cardio or weight training, if you're looking to shed weight quickly, nothing gets fat off your body as much as cold water."
When you expose yourself to the cold, it triggers a process called thermogenesis, activating brown fat. Brown fat requires energy to produce heat, and it primarily utilizes carbohydrates, particularly around your midsection, to generate the warmth your body needs after leaving the cold environment.
5. Anger Management
Do you find yourself losing your cool too often? Maybe you've been complaining about minor issues frequently. Ice baths can act as an emotional reset button.
The shock of cold water can help you regain emotional control and perspective, making it a powerful tool for managing anger and frustration. This is partly due to focused breathing and partly because you're in a situation beyond your control, teaching you to let go and avoid unnecessary frustration.
6. Doing Things You Previously Thought Impossible
Getting into the cold for the first time isn't easy. And you know that going into the experience. In fact, you're building it up in your head and perhaps even telling yourself you're not going to be able to do it.
But then you get in. It starts to hurt. Your brain tells you to get out, but you stay. After you focus on your breathing, you realize you're going to make it for the entire time. You've just proven to your brain that you don't need it's protection, and it wasn't as hard as it made you believe.
The more you go through this process, the more you begin to realize that all those other hard things you previously thought were out of your reach, are actually possible. And they just take a bit of time and deep breathing to attain.
7. Depression Relief
Numerous studies have highlighted the positive effects of cold exposure in alleviating depression symptoms. Personal experiences, such as the author's own recovery from depression through cold exposure and breathing, also support this notion.
Individuals suffering from depression often have low levels of norepinephrine and dopamine. Ice baths have been shown to increase these neurotransmitters by as much as 200% to 300%. Furthermore, the release of endorphins and a potential rise in serotonin levels can significantly improve mood and help alleviate depression symptoms.
We always recommend taking an ice bath with a friend, but doing it with a group is even better. There's a unique sense of vulnerability when you're with others, making it easier to discuss fears and concerns.
In today's world, we tend to spend less time with others due to remote jobs, leading to increased isolation. This isolation can leave us feeling unsupported, invisible, and unheard. Human interaction is akin to recharging our emotional batteries, so being around supportive humans more often can boost our sense of connection and belonging.
9. Reduced Stress
Are you grappling with daily stressors? Ice baths can be tremendously helpful. Every time you expose your body to the cold, you subject it to 'hormesis,' which is a controlled stressor. However, during this process, practicing slow, deep breathing is essential. Deep breathing can slow down your heart rate and reduce blood pressure, enabling you to remain composed when confronted with stress in everyday life.
So, instead of allowing your breathing to spiral out of control and trigger a chain reaction in your body, you can stay calm and hopefully avoid arguments or conflicts with loved ones.
10. Insomnia Relief
While there are limited studies on the link between cold immersion and improved sleep, the connection is more complex than it might seem. Modern living often keeps us in a constant state of high alert, with our heart rate perpetually racing in third gear. This heightened heart rate can lead to racing thoughts and increased mental activity.
Regular ice baths have been shown to slow the heart rate, which in turn, can calm your mind and allow it to downshift, promoting deeper and more restful sleep.
So the next time you're thinking about jumping into the cold, consider these ice bath benefits and remember that they go far beyond just a simple dopamine release.