Cold Water Therapy
I love swimming in nature, especially the sea and I'll take a river or fresh water pond any day over a chlorinated pool. Along my own healing journey I fell in love with cold water swimming for the exhillerating rush of endorphins it gave me and the complete feeling of euphoria upon getting out, skin tingling with sensation.
The main reason I do it is because it makes me feel good, and, as many of you may know a healing journey is a long and mentally tough battle which can often be depressing and demoralising. Swimming outdoors in nature helped me to overcome that and to start to enjoy life again - and there’s a lot of science behind it as to why.
So, let’s get down to it - cold water immersion has the ability to boost our happiness. A 2007 research study found that cold water can help treat depression symptoms and if used regularly can be more beneficial than medications. The reason for this is that cold water triggers the production of mood-boosting neurotransmitters, like dopamine, which make us feel happy and upbeat. Even if you’ve never done seriously cold water you must have at least once jumped into a pool or the ocean and been shocked by the cold? That feeling of exhilaration is ten times better with cold water immersion; if you thought exercise was good for producing endorphins, join me on one of our trips to Hampstead Ponds and feel the difference! And if you simply don’t think you can do it, see it as an exercise in improving mental toughness; challenging yourself to achieve a goal that you didn’t think you could reach. If you need a wetsuit then so be it, you can slowly transition to not needing one.
It also improves cardiovascular circulation which is one of the single most beneficial things you can do for your health. Imagine the cells inside your body housing the tiny mitochondria which convert nutrients and oxygen to ATP, (for ease let’s just say ATP = energy). Increased circulation means increased blood flow to our cells, which in turn means better energy, better heart health, increased ability to concentrate and better immune function, amongst a whole host of other things.
It improves lymphatic circulation too. The lymph system is a network of vessels that run throughout the body, helping take away waste, bacteria and microbes from your cells – helping the body to detoxify. The more sedentary a life we lead the less the lymphatic system functions optimally as it’s regulated by muscle contraction, hence sitting at your desk all day is not a good way to pass your time (my trick is to drink lots of water so that I have to get up to wee all the time!) Cold water, however, causes your lymph vessels to contract, forcing your lymphatic system to pump lymph fluids throughout your body, flushing the waste out of the area. The knock on effect from this is that the immune system’s white blood cells rise up to attack and destroy any unwanted substance contained within the lymph fluid - increased immunity.
If this isn't enough to convince you I chatted to my friend Ryan carter, health and wellness coach, on his personal experience with Cold Water Therapy:
Why do you go out of your way to get cold?
I don’t particularly go out of my way to get cold, it’s just one of my day to day habits: whether this be not turning on the heating, removing a layer of clothing or by wearing sandals. I’ve got a bath and a shower so if I want to I can use those, or pop to Hampstead Ponds or the serpentine for a swim.
How do you incorporate cold water therapy into your everyday life?
Sometimes on my days off I go to a sauna and then do some cold water therapy afterwards. I don't do cold water therapy after training as it blunts the addaptive response.If I lived by the sea I’d be in the sea a LOT. Or just save yourself some money and turn the heating off!
Can you give us city dwellers that work long hours and stressful jobs any easy tips to start introducing some element of cold water therapy into our lives?
Just start small, don’t do anything crazy. Use your wash basin with cold ice water and dunk your head in for a few minutes, or incorporate it into your shower at the end, start with 30 seconds and build up from there.
What can you say to those people out there to whom the concept of diving into some frigid water is just unthinkably awful to cajole them into giving it a go?
It’s a matter of the way you think. You’ve got to embrace the uncomfortable. If you think about the best life experiences you’ve had they’ve probably come from a place or uncertainty or fear; you’ve got to break through some mental barriers and the euphoria you get from it is so worth it. It’s amazing.
So, who wants to come swimming?!
Find Ryan @livevitae on Instagram and via his website livevitae.com