In recent years the cold water therapy has gained significant popularity due to its awesome health benefits both on the physical and mental levels.

Balancing blood pressure, lowering inflammation, reducing chronic pains, helping to lose weight, improving sleep, stopping depression and anxiety, creating a more engaged and optimistic outlook on life are but a few benefits reported by those starting to use cold water therapy. And most amazing is that these effects are lasting and even years later people continue to enjoy good health if they stick to using this amazing tool of self-support.  


How does it work

Let’s have a look at the mechanics of how cold therapy is able to produce such results. Probably the main point of understanding is that when we make that plunge into the cold water we are creating STRESS. For a moment we are “throwing” ourselves out of our comfort zone and placing all the trust in our bodies to produce a response that will keep us alive. 

The blood vessels that run in our skin completely shut down to insulate the body from the cold, heart rate accelerates and raises our blood pressure, large, involuntary “inspiratory gasp” that occurs reflexively upon submersion which is then followed by rapid breathing, or hyperventilation, which is impossible to override. The consequent stretching of the heart chambers—notably the atria—results in the release of a hormone called “atrial natriuretic peptide.” In simple terms, this tells the kidneys to offload more water, which fills the bladder and leaves cold water swimmers with the slightly uncomfortable need to urinate.

As hard as it is to believe, all of this stress can be good for you. By creating a controlled exposure to such stress we are creating resilience. 

Reports of stress-induced resilience can be found in journals dedicated to the fields of neuroscience, sports medicine, cancer, healthy aging, dementia, Parkinson’s disease, and even ophthalmology. The benefits of stress-induced resilience include faster wound healing and a demonstrable slowing of age-related degeneration in the brain and other nervous tissue, muscles, and bones. Stress-induced resilience has also been shown to suppress certain kinds of cancers. Basically, a whole raft of physiological effects can contribute to a longer and healthier life—all through exposure to the kinds of stresses that cold water therapy presents, namely exercise, exposure to the elements, and physical challenges.

This process also helps us practice coping with the innate self-preservation responses. As we learn to respond to the cold through controlled breathing and relaxing mindfulness techniques, we teach ourselves how to respond to any environmental condition that triggers strong emotions. So the next time we find ourselves in a conflictual situation we are more likely, instead of going into the famous fight/flight/freeze reactions, to assume a stance of a zen master… and respond in awareness and with understanding as we allow ourselves to view the situation with clarity and stability, exactly as we practiced and learned through the process of plunging into cold water. 

Why do we need this

We can probably agree that cold water therapy is one of the more radical tools of self-help and those who do it are often considered a bit crazy. 

So the question then is – do we have to go to the “crazy” zone to help ourselves? 

The answer to this question cannot be answered as a general rule and should rather be considered on an individual basis. Some people prefer small, but very consistent, steps to achieve their goals while others can only learn and prefer the “school of hard knocks”… or anything in between. The key is to be self-honest and choose a way that is truly effective for you. 

Working as a homeopath what I see too often, unfortunately, are people who have been, in one way or another, neglecting their mental and physical health for an extended period of time, either within awareness or not really understanding what they are doing, and as a consequence slowly developing chronic health condition(-s) which now require more drastic measures to be resolved. 

If we allow the chronic condition to develop over a long time we see how the organism is depleted of its life force to the point where there is not enough strength to return to the state of balance. This is the point usually where we require some “shock therapy” to try and jump start the body back into action/movement to try and regain life. Cold water therapy is a perfect tool for this without any harmful side-effects. 

Of course it’s not necessary to wait until things get so bad to go into the cold water, we can as well use it for preventative measures, treating smaller points before they get a chance to grow. The massive change and powerful physical stimulus of the cold water keeps us from dwelling on our thoughts or overthinking, which can break the cycle of anxiety. When we come through the challenge and emerge from the water, we therefore find that our emotional state has shifted from fearful and angsty toward excited and joyful. 

The exhilaration, joy, and sense of achievement we feel after successfully negotiating this challenge helps develop positive associations and an improved self-image, which leaves us better equipped to deal with future everyday challenges on dry land.

Some Interesting Links:

100 Days of Vitamin Sea – The story of Beth dealing with Migraine Headaches and how Cold Water supported her on this journey. 

Hydrotherapy – Short Movie on the Healing Effect of Cold Water – Story of Laura dealing with chronic disease of Fibromyalgia 

Catching Breath – Short Video on the Healing Power of Cold Water Swimming

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