Few things are more emblematic of the comforts of the modern, developed as the warm shower: A virtually unlimited supply of relaxing warm water falling from the faucet to wash the troubles away, conveniently accessible from the comfort of one’s own home at any time (hopefully utilized daily). You know that First World fear: One must never be the last person to shower, otherwise they’ll miss out on steamy comfort and get stuck with bone-chilling glacier water that you’re surprised isn’t freezing the pipes. People associate a cold shower with dilapidated gym locker rooms, houses that lack water heaters, and hardcore action heroes who turn the heat down just to show how hardcore they are. If you haven’t heard this old life hack by now though, you can find this inconvenient fiend can be a friend that brings a host of benefits that go beyond just hygiene.
Cold Shower Stat Boosts
While our bodies and skin benefit from regular hygiene whether the showers are warm or cold, cold showers bring benefits that hot showers cannot deliver. According to dermatologist Jessica Krant, warm water dries out skin and can strip it of valuable natural oils. Skin is temporarily tightened by cold showers, and pores are shrank as well. Contracted pores are a valuable ally in the battle against the dermatological scourge that is acne, by preventing accumulation of dead skin cells glued together by keratin, sebum, and acne-causing chemicals in cosmetics. Lastly, smaller pores gives the appearance of smoother skin, and that’s something that men and women alike can appreciate.
Cold showers or baths are also especially helpful to cap off a workout. The soreness of exercising will be reduced not only by numbing nerve ends (like an ice pack), but also by slowing down one’s heart rate, reducing inflammation. That same reduced heart rate also reduces blood pressure, which helps clear blockage and relieves stress on the body’s immune system. The post-exercise soreness that typically follows a day or so later can also be headed off by cold showers, healing the pain before it manifests. The cold water also improves circulation by drawing out blood to warm up and burns calories (and fat by extension) in the process.
Chilling Out the Mind
If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know I’m always looking for natural stress relief methods (see the posts about meditation and holding optimistic attitudes), and cold showers fall right into this category. The blood pressure reduction described previously also reduces stress. Diminished levels of the stress hormone cortisol (which is rapidly becoming a recurring villain on this blog) have also been observed following exposure to cold water.
On a different side of the mental health spectrum, cold showers have been utilized as a partial treatment for depression, according to one study. These soggy shivers activate the sympathetic nervous system and boost the blood level of beta-endorphin, AKA the body’s happy relief juice. The same study also found the sudden, uniform blast of frigid water sends a flurry of electrical impulses between the brain and the skin’s cold receptors, which results in additional anti-depressive symptoms.
On an anecdotal note though, cold showers give us a test of willpower, which you know I’m an enthusiastic proponent of. The shock and discomfort of cold water is an all-too-familiar feeling, so our minds scoff at the notion of intentional exposure. Every time one makes the decision to look past the familiar fear to choose the numerous benefits this seemingly frightening yet not actually dangerous action can be. Momentary discomfort is endured for great gains and benefits. Minor things like choosing to jump into the cold shower every morning build our mental strength and condition us to face larger fears or difficult endeavors. How’s that for a chilling proposition?
Chill Out, Chill Up
And hey, let’s look at some practical benefits outside of mind and body: even those who have followed the cold shower challenge for years can’t stay under the freezing faucet for too long. While the comfort of a warm shower can trap us in a state of steamy relaxation, a cold shower tends to be an in-and-out affair. Come time to pay the water bill, those shorter showers are going to reflect nicely on the billing statement. Plus, you don’t have to deal with a foggy mirror when you get out of the shower. I can’t be the only one who is minorly annoyed by those things.
Practicality jokes aside, a cold shower is like grinding towards that next level in an RPG: short-term inconvenience that yields numerous benefits and stat boosts for our minds and bodies. It seems pointless and uncomfortable at first glance, but once one summons the courage to jump into that liquid Ice Beam, they can start discovering the cold hard facts of how beneficial a cold shower can be.