Everybody is saying it–from motivational bloggers to Chinese medicine practitioners to modern medical science: taking a cold shower is good for you.
Let’s just go through why from each of these three perspectives, going from most mainstream to least.
The Medical Approach
Exposure to extremely cold water raises glutathione levels and decreases uric acid levels. Essentially, it helps your body detox and rid itself of free radicals–which cause cancer, while increasing the effectiveness of the immune system.
With less uric acid in the body, one is less likely to develop things like kidney stones and gout as well. And the more glutathione in the body, the more your body can withstand stressors.
In more good news for the immune system, long-term exposure to cold water was found to continuously increase monocytes, lymphocytes with expressed IL2 receptors. This essentially means that the little immune system warriors in your blood increased.
Taking cold showers helps you lose weight! Although in a somewhat roundabout way. Cold showers increases the concentration of brown fat in your body. This is different from fat that makes you… fat. This is the stuff that promotes the burning of fat for energy, so you actually lose weight when you have more brown fat.
Cold showers help curb depression by activating “the sympathetic nervous system and increas[ing] the blood level of beta-endorphin and noradrenaline and.. increas[ing] synaptic release of noradrenaline in the brain.” It’s basically a long way of saying that cold showers fills the brain with those feel-good chemicals, without the side effects that come with drugs.
The motivational approach
Tough guys around the world have and do advocate taking cold showers to get the juices flowing, get you ready to face the world, make you stronger and more resilient. There are guys out there saying it does wonder for their willpower. They say it increases your focus, concentration and energy throughout the day. They say it makes your skin and hair look better, which boosts your confidence of course. And apparently, it just makes you more alert.
All in all, it’s some kind of secret key to killing it in life. And at two minutes a day of discomfort, what can it really hurt to try?
The Chinese medicine approach
Chinese medicine practitioners often recommend cold showers. If you’re not familiar, Chinese medicine involves things like acupuncture, understanding of yin and yang, herbal medicines and meditation.
But their reasoning for recommending cold showers has a lot to do with the balance of yin and yang.
Many of us are deficient in Yang, which is the energy in the body that helps us move and grow and change, all while protecting ourselves (maybe one could equate that to the immune system in a way). But when the body needs protection in some way, the body’s energy source, known as Qi, produces yang energy.
When you take a cold shower, the body goes into protection mode, thereby producing yang energy.
When you think about it, this fits the two advocates of cold showers above. If yang acts as the protector (immune system), cold showers have been scientifically proven to boost the immune system.
If yang energy moves you to grow and change, then it fits the motivationalists who say cold showers boost your willpower, focus and drive.
Sometimes I think truth is just the top of a hill and there are so many pathways to the same place.
So give it a try. A lot of people say if you can manage to do it (and yes, it IS uncomfortable), for 30 days for 2 minutes a day, it will utterly transform you.
I’ll leave you with one tip: control your breathing and you can control your body’s response.