Plunging into the cold

28 Oct 2021
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I have read a few articles recently and heard a radio program about the benefits of cold-water showers and cold-water swimming. In Australia we have the Bondi icebergs, people who swim in the ocean pool in winter and add buckets of ice. I thought they were foolish and never thought it had benefits.

I am often curious about a therapy that sounds simple, is accessible to most people, while it promises improvement for one’s mental health and general wellbeing.

I am someone who complains when I get a few seconds of cold water when someone has used the hot water tap in kitchen while I am having a shower.  The mere thought of a five-minute shower did scare me and made me wonder if would actually try it!

However, I was inquisitive, so for the purposes of research for this blog, I decided to challenge myself to a shower of one minute. Dear reader, see what I am prepared to do so I can write blog! I know it does not sound a lot of time, but I thought it would be a big effort for my first time.

I kept putting it off then I thought I would be brave. How hard could it be? As it turned out, extremely hard for me!! I lasted ten seconds before I stopped as I was screaming, I thought I would worry the neighbours.

I do feel guilty and so privileged when I think of all the people in the world who do not have access to clean water and could only dream of a cold shower without having to walk miles to find water.

I am wondering if anyone has tried the cold shower, swimming in chilly water or knows of anyone who has, could you share your experiences.

I am waiting for researchers to discover the benefits of the warm shower, as I have. For me a nice warm shower makes me feel ready to face the day or calms me down if I am stressed.

Would anyone be willing to try the cold-water challenge?

Do you find reading about such suggestions helpful? Have you found a suggestion apart from cold water that has improved your mental health or has not worked??

Leah

A Moodscope member.

A Moodscope member.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment below.

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Comments

Paul

Oct. 29, 2021, 3:46 a.m.

Hi Leah Thanks for today’s blog which made me smile about you screaming. I have read a lot on wim hof the ice man he is an incredible man who fell apart when his dear wife left this planet in a sudden way. His cold water achievements are unbelievable, but he reckons it has changed his life for the better. I couldn’t do cold water swimming as I have a fear of water if I can’t touch the floor. I tried the cold shower and like yourself found it hard not to make a noise, but I percervered. Mornings can be very difficult for me but doing this has helped improve my mornings. What I do is have a nice warm shower as normal then slowly alter the temperature in stages until it is cold. It is very unpleasant at first but after a minute or two it not as bad as you imagine. The after affects definitely lift my mood enough to keep doing it. I often think of it as a type of shock therapy. I would be careful if anyone has a heart condition which includes myself. Incidentally I listened to an interview with Wim Hoff and he really enjoys warm showers as well as cold. It would be interesting if we had a moodsope cold shower day to compere the results. The times would have to be staggered as the noise could cause an earthquake. Paul

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Leah

Oct. 29, 2021, 5:33 a.m.

Paul you made me smile. I admire wim hof and people who have improved their depression by cold water swimming.

Mary Wednesday

Oct. 29, 2021, 5:09 a.m.

Well, while not being an ice man, I do like open water swimming and, if I lived at the coast all year round, would experiment with swimming every day. It definitely makes me feel good. One of the frustrations in these low periods is that I not have enough energy to swim: it would take up all my resources for the day just to drive the 1.5 miles to the pool! Cold showers: I've tried them. Not a fan. I didnt scream, but that was only on principle; I wanted to.

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Leah

Oct. 29, 2021, 5:35 a.m.

Mary, thanks for your reply. I thought a shower would be easier as I am so far from the coast. I could not think about not screaming it was automatic,!

Bearofliddlebrain

Oct. 29, 2021, 6:02 a.m.

Yay Leah, what a good subject for a Moodscope blog! It does improve mental well-being - I can attest to that! I had been reading and chatting about it to a blog friend from the sleep programme I was on. He lived in Idaho and regularly went skiing so I asked him about wild swimming as he mentioned there was a river running at the bottom of his garden!! He said he might try it - would I? Well in landlocked Cambridgeshire, I didn’t know where to go that would be safe. Auntie Google found me a lake about twenty minutes away. A private lake that has a lot of magnesium in it apparently…so I took the plunge - literally!! My sleepio friend was impressed and a few months later he started doing it too. To get myself prepared, I’d splash my face with ice cold water first thing in the morning; again before a shower, then turn the shower down a degree or three; when brushing teeth I would splash my face with cold water again. After a few days it didn’t bother me so much. So, I booked in to have a swim at the lake….OH Dear dog it was cold!! Ffffreezio cold, but exhilarating! I managed ten minutes the first time and worked up to doing twenty minutes to half an hour. N.B - this was December 2nd last year….chuffing cold I can tell you!!! (Chattering teeth emoji!!) I kept this up for a few months and felt wonderful, however, changes of circumstances have meant I haven’t been able to go so often. Definitely worth the ‘agony’ even if it’s a quick dip, in and out! The screams from others getting in the water is hilarious - we all do it!! You feel so alive! Endorphins whizzing about the body! Give the ‘cold water on the face’ a few goes and slowly lower the temperature in the shower - invigorating, Leah, invigorating! Look forward to hearing SWM’s take on this as she swims in the sea in Ireland. Love and Bear hugs x x x

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Leah

Oct. 29, 2021, 7:47 a.m.

Bear, I will take your word for the swimming. I don’t drive and am over 2 hrs away from any water, Do I tried the shower. Cold water on face and lowering temperature did not prepare me for cold shower. Thanks for your reply and am pleased you loved the experience,

Liz

Oct. 29, 2021, 6:36 a.m.

Hi Leah, I have friends who do it and where we live, we are surrounded by beach being right by the coast. They all seem to find benefit from it and I have heard them say it is great for one's mental health. I'm afraid I am a sort of burrow in the warm person who loves going to bed (is there anyone else out there who looks forward to going to sleep like I do). I must have been a dormouse in a previous life. I tried the cold water thing with my stepdaughter in October up here. We had t-shirts and she a swimsuit, myself a bikini. I wouldn't do it again personally but that's just me. I have got however a newly acquired paddle board and a wetsuit and all I need is the shoes. I daresay that it will still be cold but that's the nearest I will get to it. Perhaps daftly I worry about the sudden shock to the body and misjudging the temperature so that it does the opposite of what you intended it to do. I can see it getting the endorphins up and running though certainly and I think it's good to try stuff and be open to new experiences and challenges. I just know my limits. I've started a new sport - pickle ball - which is like a cross between table tennis, badminton and tennis. I really enoy it. Different from badminton which I was getting tired with. I certainly feel the benefit being amongst friendly others, having a laugh but also improving my co-ordination. I always feel something after it, especially in the legs and I think my mental health has improved by the company. As regards things to improve my mental health, I find online jigsaw puzzles very relaxing. I love matching up the colours and shapes and getting applause when I have finished. It's the only applause I am getting at the moment! Thanks for your blog, thought provoking as always xx

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Leah

Oct. 29, 2021, 7:49 a.m.

Liz thanks for your reply. I think that we all find something that helps us.

Jul

Oct. 29, 2021, 7:01 a.m.

Hi Leah I had a lesson with a one to one cold water swimming coach a couple of weeks ago. Before we went into the sea, she told me all about currents, rip tides, cold water shock etc and after about 30 minutes of prep, I went into the choppy sea. There were dark clouds overhead so not the best conditions especially for the first time. I wore a long sleeved top over my swim suit and neoprene shoes as it's shingle not sand. Anyway it didn't feel as freezing cold as I thought it would. Apparently the water had warmed up over the summer. But I was very scared!! It was choppy with a swell and waves. I managed a few minutes fully submerged and swimming in short bursts. The coach told me that you should stay in only the same number of minutes as the water temperature which was 16 degrees. Afterwards walking home, I felt very cold and didn't get warm again until about an hour after I got home but then felt a warm glow. I really felt good and calm, much calmer than I'd felt for ages. I'd definitely do it again but probably not over the winter and not on my own but with a group of at least one other person with me. Jul xx

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Leah

Oct. 29, 2021, 7:52 a.m.

Jul that is amazing. I don’t think I would do that as I am not a strong swimmer. I am glad you felt that glow people talk about.

Flypaper

Oct. 29, 2021, 1:19 p.m.

Take a flask and a hot water bottle next time you go to jump start the warming process!

Leah

Oct. 29, 2021, 6:54 p.m.

Flypaper thanks fir the tip.

Orangeblossom

Oct. 29, 2021, 7:14 a.m.

Thanks for your blog Leah. I have tried cold water showers after a nice warm one, to close my pores. However I am not a fan & it has lasted a bare minimum. I know that it has beneficial effects.

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Leah

Oct. 29, 2021, 7:53 a.m.

OB I want a warm shower after a cold one but no one seems to recommend that. Thanks for your reply. .

Sue

Oct. 29, 2021, 7:22 a.m.

I always have a cold water shower after washing my hair in warm water..it shocks my system ...especially when running over my head. But afterwards I feel exhilarated, alive and ready to tackle anything! Try it!

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Leah

Oct. 29, 2021, 7:55 a.m.

Sue I rinse my hair in cold water but I have never felt ready to tackle anything. I think it must be an individual thing..I don’t like cold climates and never liked the snow,

Sally

Oct. 29, 2021, 8 a.m.

Hi Leah, thanks for the idea, but not now, thanks! In the summer I did try the cold shower, and , like you, lasted a few seconds! I challenge myself at the gym, courtesy of a long suffering P.T., but that is all. I would not do it unless pinned down ( not literally!!!). I suppose I am too keen on comfort these days!

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Leah

Oct. 29, 2021, 8:12 a.m.

Sally I agree. A warm shower helps. Slim me, makes glow and I feel exhilarated after a hot shower. I just need someone to promote my idea. ,

Teg

Oct. 29, 2021, 8:23 a.m.

Leah Thanks for your amusing blog. I admire your determination to step right out of your comfort zone as part of your research. Like most I am not a fan of cold water and have even tried it. I will settle for a walk in the cold as my way of enjoying nature. That always seems to lift my spirits whatever the temperature.

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Leah

Oct. 29, 2021, 8:58 a.m.

Teg yes I think we all find something that helps to lift our mood For me it is warm showers , books and dark cholocate not in any order and not all at once.

Teg

Oct. 29, 2021, 2:43 p.m.

Yes to dark choc. Every evening watching TV.

Leah

Oct. 29, 2021, 6:55 p.m.

Teg. I agree in small quantities, or that is the plan.

Flypaper

Oct. 29, 2021, 8:46 a.m.

I've just started cold water swimming two to three times a week with my best friend. Her daughter has challenged us to a Christmas Eve dip in their agricultural water tank swimming pool so we are trying to keep it up so it won't be so much of a shock on the day. The water temperature is slowly dropping and we are limiting ourselves to 1 minute per degree of temperature. Going in is tough but I am getting used to it, and I get out feeling invigorated and really quite chuffed with myself. I have to go after work so it is going to be interesting soon when we are swimming in the dark!!

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Leah

Oct. 29, 2021, 8:59 a.m.

Thanks flypaper I think you are brave and am glad it helps you.

The Gardener

Oct. 29, 2021, 9:07 a.m.

I've heard all the views of benefits of cold showers, swims etc but unconvinced! Only happy over 28 degrees, tropical seas. We did belong to a country club (briefly,, could not stand other members). They had a sauna and cold plunge pool - we did use it, and still alive to tell the tale. Is it not SWM who swims regularly in the Irish sea? I like splashing my face with cold water - if my legs swell or ache soak in cold water, run cold water over wrists - but, hedonism the thing. Sleeping badly - turned on electric blanket this a.m, had a lovely hot shower, back to bed with France Musique and slept til 10 a.m, after being besieged with workmen yesterday. Does not sound very healthy, does it? Thanks Leah.

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Leah

Oct. 29, 2021, 9:11 a.m.

TG I think you are poster woman for hot showers as you are clever alert and healthy. I think someone should research you!

The Gardener

Oct. 29, 2021, 10:10 a.m.

Thanks for the flattery! Open to highest bidder. In light of my shape and latest photos I don't think anybody would use me to advertise anything! Doing a course on 'Brands' hope to make some sense of it.

Leah

Oct. 29, 2021, 6:57 p.m.

That’s the beauty of the internet I can use my imagination .

Brum Mum

Oct. 29, 2021, 11:10 a.m.

Yes I have done it and got a huge buzz from it. Last year on a ridiculously hot day my friend invited me to Dosthill Quarry, a former quarry now owned by an Olympic swimming athlete. It’s supervised so safe and the thrill of swimming in the open and feeling after fantastic. I also swam in a tidal pool in Ilfracombe this summer. It was freezing cold but I wanted to carry on even when it started to rain. I believe that there is quite a lot of research on the positive brain chemicals that are emitted when doing this but it needs careful supervision!!

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Leah

Oct. 29, 2021, 7:01 p.m.

Brum mum, Thanks for your comment. Yes the research is there but the cure seems impossible to try. As I explained swimming is not possible on a regular possible and I may need to give neighbours earplugs if I try again, !

Valerie

Oct. 29, 2021, 12:24 p.m.

Hello Leah,I have not been swimming since my teens.I was never a very strong swimmer anyway,so the thought of going in the sea or a lake would terrify me.However,for years I have finished my hot daily shower with a cold one,I read that the small shock to the body causes the immune system to kick in and keeps it working. A friend from the Ukraine told me of his mother,an elderly lady living alone in a remote area with no neighbours nearby.Every morning she ran naked to the lake a few minutes away.In freezing weather she tied a hammer around her waist to crack the ice before diving in.She was apparently in remarkable health.Not something I intend trying!

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Leah

Oct. 29, 2021, 7:05 p.m.

Valerie , Thanks for your thoughts. I admire you pr shower routine and I believe it works for you but not sure I am brave enough to try. I have heard about people in remote areas doing what your friends neighbour did. I have distant ancestors from Ukraine and they would have thought I was a softie.

Patty

Oct. 29, 2021, 1:57 p.m.

Hi Leah. I live on the coast in the US. The ocean is always really cold and the weather is cool. People only swim in it when it is occasionally extraordinarily hot out. Like 90 degrees which is RARE. We have a lake cabin and when it's 80 or above, I will occasionally go swimming. The lake is very cool but feels really good once you get in. It is so refreshing. My son was luving at my lake house for a while and would go swimming every evening in the lake through November. He said he loved it but I have no desire. I'm sure it is exhilarating but not for me. We have cool weather around here and that is enough coolness for me. I am not that adventurous. Do love the lake though. It is clean and so refreshing and beautiful. I love living in an area with lots of lakes and rivers. We are so very lucky.

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Leah

Oct. 29, 2021, 7:07 p.m.

Patty The place where you live sounds wonderful. Yes having a cold shower or swimming on a warm day is different doing it when the weather is very cold. Thanks fir sharing your story.

Salt Water Mum

Oct. 29, 2021, 3:18 p.m.

Hi Leah, Hi Moodscopers, Well some of you know that I do indeed swim all year around in the Irish sea. Most days in the Summer and Spring. I'm once or twice a week now in Autumn and winter... well, once a week max. Sometimes, once every two weeks. I love it. It is bloomin bloomin cold! My hands suffer I must say so in the winter months, I wear gloves and jelly shoes on my feet. But always a swimsuit. When I'm feeling low, it's a much much bigger effort to get in. I can't let myself overthink it. I have to push through the negative feelings and almost force myself in. But once in, I feel alive. I FEEL ALIVE!! It's so cold that I can think of nothing else but that I AM IN THE SEA !!! That's it - that's all I can think of. I repeat a mantra to myself when I am immersed 'I am alive. I am strong' - that's it. that's all I can do. Feel the water. Smell the water. Look out to the horizon. Look up at the sky and clouds. Swim. Feel the cold. Swim. Think of nothing but here I am. I am alive. I am strong. And the high, because it is a high, lasts for hours sometimes. Oh if only it lasted longer but it's intoxicating. And my body is zinging afterwards which is wonderful but it's my mind that it really helps... Mindfulness is not for me sitting and thinking, it's getting into the sea and feeling the cold and feeling alive... Alive and strong. swm x

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Bearofliddlebrain

Oct. 29, 2021, 5:32 p.m.

Fabulous dearest SWM ***

The Gardener

Oct. 29, 2021, 5:45 p.m.

WOW.

Leah

Oct. 29, 2021, 7:14 p.m.

SWM, Widow wow what an inspiring post. I feel like like a complete wimp now. Your description is so amazing. I assume you are a good swimmer and I wonder do you always swim with a buddy. Did it take you a long time to try it and did you ever feel like giving up at all.? I am so in awe of your strength and determination. Thanks so much for sharing.

Leah

Oct. 29, 2021, 7:16 p.m.

Bear is , SWM is fabulous courageous and a great writer.

Leah

Oct. 29, 2021, 7:17 p.m.

Yes TG wow wow wow and I have run out of words to describe her writing.

Patty

Oct. 29, 2021, 4:48 p.m.

I loved your blog Salt Water Mom!!! How invigorating!!

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Leah

Oct. 29, 2021, 7:15 p.m.

Patty yes it was so incredible wasnt. I do feel humbled but we are all different.

Salt Water Mum

Oct. 30, 2021, 10:20 a.m.

You are all very very kind. Thank you :-)) x

Leah

Oct. 31, 2021, 2:09 a.m.

You are so determined, Amazing SWM.

Paula

Oct. 29, 2021, 7 p.m.

Hi Leah I totally agree with you. Nothing worse than cold water. Whereas a warm one, or a warm bubble bath, is lovely. I always enjoy your blogs, they make me think and feel. Have you thought of writing up your blogs as a book? Then you could share them more widely. Just a thought. Take care. Paula x

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Leah

Oct. 29, 2021, 7:24 p.m.

Thanks Paula for your kind words. I am beginning to warm to the idea of trying cold water but we will see. Maybe we are different as I said before and we work out what suits us but we are trying our best . I am interested in new ideas to try but I must admit I like those ideas that are induce comfort!

Leah

Oct. 29, 2021, 7:30 p.m.

I know I often say that I am surprised by the responses to my blog but I am intrigued by how many people do cold swimming regularly, cold showers or have tried it and had a positive experience. I may be brave to try again or not, I will see. I suppose I have always seen cold water as a punishment , maybe I have read too many books about terrible childhoods. The responses have given me a lot to think about. Please free to keep commenting as I will keep replying.

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Tutti Frutti

Oct. 29, 2021, 7:34 p.m.

Hi Leah I did go for a little dip at the South Coast on a balmy summer's day this year and also paddled a couple of weeks ago when we had an unseasonably warm weekend. I love the sea although don't get there very often so really enjoyed and felt upbeat after both occasions . Not sure whether I was experiencing the cold water high though. However I balk at the idea of proper cold water swimming these days. Whereas when I was about 10 I remember swimming in Wales in April with my dad. That definitely made the teeth chatter. I don't think I could face a cold shower though. The sea is just innately much more appealing. Love TF x

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Leah

Oct. 30, 2021, 4:44 a.m.

TF Thanks for your thoughts. The sea is to far so showers suit me.

Rachel

Oct. 30, 2021, 6:38 a.m.

Hi Leah, Dr Moseley’s podcast, Just One Thing, recommended a 1 minute cold shower and explains the science behind it. Anything that stimulates the release of good endorphins I am up for! Build on those 10 seconds and reap the rewards. I holler and giggle my way through those 60 seconds

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Leah

Oct. 31, 2021, 2:07 a.m.

Rachel thanks for the encouragement. Do you have a warm shower first. .? I don’t think I would ever giggle just scream and swear.,,!! It depends on my mood as if I am a bit down I have no motivation to try it. I think a warm shower releases good endorphins Sit calms me and makes feel well. Maybe I have different genes.

Just some guy you know

Oct. 31, 2021, 1:59 p.m.

I am a regular open water swimmer, having moved to Devon and able to walk to river dart for a swim. Great community, and great for mental health .. alhough actual mechanism / connection (as Dr Mosely says) between cold water and improved mental health is unknow, I have met researcher via work who says all you need is 5 mins of cold water on your face / head to stimulate the vagus nerve and get same effect as cold shower / swim. For me, challenge is getting out to swim when low - and whether swimming actually improves my mood, or is a sign my mood is improving! Anyway, great to hear everyone else's experiences!

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