You've probably been there. You stumble sleepily to the shower, turn on the water, get in, and promptly stand there for you don't even know how long in the warm deliciousness streaming over you. In your head, you run through all the stuff you have to tackle at the office, but one word keeps interrupting your mental rundown of the day's agenda.
But hang on. What if you knew a way to kick your drowsiness to the curb and scientifically improve the odds you'd have a more creative, happier, and energized day? As it turns out, all it takes to crank up your flow of I'm-awesome juices is to turn down the heat in your shower.
What a cold shower does to you
- Your body responds to the initial shock of the temperature by quickening your breath. The goal is to deliver more oxygen to the heart, which has to pump a little harder because the cold makes blood vessels constrict and increases blood pressure. Your brain, however, ends up getting extra oxygen, too, not just because you're taking in more air, but because the body redirects blood flow away from outer blood vessels and into deeper ones as a way to minimize heat loss and protect your organs.
- Receptors in your skin interact with peripheral nerve endings to send electrical impulses to the brain. Research indicates that this activity stimulates the areas of the brain responsible for regulating mood, causing an increase in neurotransmitters. Levels of certain stress hormones, such as noradrenaline, also go up.
- Because more blood is getting to your heart and internal organs, the lymphatic system has an easier time removing metabolic waste products and delivering necessary nutrients.
- The cold water stimulates brown fat cells, which burn more energy than white ones to produce heat.
- Your body ends up producing more white blood cells as the body increases its metabolic rate to stay warm. Virus-fighting cytokines gamma interferon and interleukin-4 elevate too.
- Levels of uric acid and the "master" antioxidant gluthathione go up.
As a result of all these physiological responses, you get a burst of energy and get rid of fatigue. Your mood elevates--in fact, the effects of cold showering on mood might be more effective than prescription antidepressants. You become more alert. Your metabolism improves, as does your circulatory/heart and immune system health. This includes the ability to protect yourself against the harmful effects of oxidative stress. Because you're more ready to go mentally and physically, you can end up more creative and productive. It's a little easier to cope with the annoyances around you, and you might even find you have to call in sick less.
So what's the best way to dive in?
You can jump right in to a cold shower if you like, but if you're like most people, it's probably going to be more tolerable and enjoyable to get in and then decrease the water temperature. Everybody's going to have their own tolerance limits, and it's a good idea to check with your doctor to make sure the cold exposure is safe for you, but a study by Nikolai Shevchuk had people stay in a shower around 68 degrees Fahrenheit for just two or three minutes. You also can try alternating water temperatures throughout your shower.
Opening another stream of fun
There are other ways to bring cold water therapy into your business and have fun in the process. For example, you could have employees participate in polar bear dips for charity, or you could have teams compete for the "privilege" of dousing volunteer co-workers with ice water at the company picnic. The whole point of the therapy is to expand both body and mind, so don't be afraid to get your feet wet with a range of ideas. Just make sure nobody's forced into anything, and be safe!