Does cold water immersion improve your mental health?

Some scientists also suspect that a dip in ice water can help treat mental illnesses, such as anxiety and depression. a Case Study 2018Also in the UK, he describes a 24-year-old woman with depression and anxiety who had taken a swim in cold water and, after four months, no longer needed medication. Since then, researchers have followed up with a bigger articleHowever, the results have not yet been published.

These early results are promising, but obtaining solid evidence is a challenge, says Jeremy Howick, a senior researcher at Cardiff University’s Experiments Research Center who studies evidence-based medicine. He said that researchers can’t hide the fact that someone is receiving cold water treatment, and that their high expectations may lead them to experience the placebo effect. Hoff suggested this in his book Wim Hof ​​methodTo get the most out of the method, she wrote, you have to stick with it mentally.

Even if not a placebo effect, it remains unclear what component of swimming in cold water might contribute to the reported improvements in mood and well-being, said Mike Tipton, professor of human and applied physiology at the University of Portsmouth. , which studies the body’s reaction to harsh environments. Swimmers not only dive in freezing water, but also exercise, socialize, spend time outdoors and be challenging, all of which can improve mental health. “No one has done studies to determine the active ingredient,” he says.

There are several reasons to believe that cold water can provide mental health benefits. Dipping yourself in ice water releases stress hormones, such as norepinephrine and the cortisol. That’s probably why people say dips in cold water wake them up, Tipton said.

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Some studies have also reported an increase in chemicals in the brain that regulate mood, such as dopamineAfter a cold shower, which may explain the euphoria people feel after swimming. Also, you can put your face in cold water Activation of the parasympathetic branch In the nervous system, causing the body to relax after a stressful event. This can help people feel calm and reduce swelling. Various diseases including depressionIt is linked to chronic inflammation, says Mark Harper, a consultant anesthesiologist at the Royal Sussex County Hospital, who studies swimming in cold water as a treatment for depression.

Some researchers also hypothesize that adapting to the shock of cold water may improve a person’s ability to deal with other stresses. Little Study 2010 He showed that people accustomed to cold water had a lower stress response when subjected to another exertion, in this case, exercise in a low-oxygen environment. However, sustained endurance of hypoxic exercise is not the same as stress tolerance, and additional work is needed.

While immersion in cold water does provide some physiological effects, “there aren’t enough high-quality studies” to recommend it as a mental health treatment, says Sophie Lazarus, a clinical psychologist at The Ohio State University. Other treatments for anxiety and depression, such as Cognitive behavioral therapyHe said, get more scientific support. It can also be safer.

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