What is Cryotherapy? 

Cold water therapy falls under the term cryotherapy. Cryotherapies including ice, cold water, and cold air have been popularized by their ability to remove heat, reduce core and tissue temperatures, and alter blood flow in humans. These effects of the cold result in many possible improvements within the body–reduced inflammation, reduced pain, improved immune function, improved circulation, and improved mental health, just to name a few. 

How Can Cold Water Therapy Help with Anxiety? 

Immersing yourself in cold water can be a simple way to manage anxiety. Anxiety is a common mental health condition that can cause excessive worrying, panic attacks, and even physical symptoms like sweating and trembling. Cold water therapy works by activating the body’s natural stress response, which can help reduce the symptoms of anxiety. 

When you immerse yourself in cold water, your body’s natural response is to increase blood flow to your internal organs, which helps to keep them warm. This process activates your parasympathetic nervous system, which also prompts the body to relax after a stressful event. This may help you calm down and reduce inflammation, which is a condition associated with anxiety and depression. 

In addition to activating your stress response, cold water therapy can also improve your mood by increasing the release of endorphins. Endorphins are chemicals that are naturally produced by the body and are known to promote feelings of happiness. Cold water immersion can also improve circulation, which can reduce inflammation and improve the overall health of your body. 

Research on Cold Water Therapy and its Effect on Anxiety

Using cold water therapy for its physical and mental benefits is not new, and research does suggest that cold water may have a positive effect on anxiety. 

One study published in Psychology Today in 2014 found that cold water showers activate the sympathetic nervous system and increase the release of neurotransmitters such as norepinephrine and dopamine, which can have a calming effect on the body and mind. The study’s author concluded that he has seen patients with both depression and anxiety benefit from hydrotherapy. 

Another study published in Lifestyle Medicine in 2021 found,Cold-water immersion is a well-tolerated therapy that is capable of significantly improving mood in young, fit, and healthy individuals.” This group studied 64 undergraduate students who completed up to 20 minutes of swimming in cold seawater. The study’s authors noted, “… the hypothesis that cold in and of itself can improve mood is supported.”

More research is needed in order to fully understand the potential benefits of cold water therapy on anxiety, but the research so far points to positive effects. 

Some Other Possible Benefits of a Cold Water Therapy 

Immersing yourself in cold water can have many other possible benefits besides helping with the symptoms of anxiety. Cold water therapy may:  

  1. Improve your immunity to common colds: The shock of cold water can stimulate the blood cells that fight off infection (leukocytes). One study in the Netherlands found that people who switched to cold showers for 30, 60, or 90 seconds for 90 days called out sick from work 29% less than people who didn’t switch to cold showers.
  2. Improve circulation: Cold water strains your body — it goes into “survival mode,” working hard to maintain its core temperature. This stimulates your body to increase blood flow circulation.
  3. Relieve localized pain: Cold therapy alleviates pain by reducing inflammation. But it also interferes with your brain’s perception of the pain.
  4. Reduce inflammation and muscle soreness: Cold temps make your blood vessels tighten up (vasoconstrict). When that happens, blood moves to your body’s core and vital organs. The blood naturally becomes oxygen- and nutrient-rich during the process. 

As your body heats up again, the blood vessels expand (vasodilate), bringing that oxygenated blood back to your tissues. As it flows back, it helps to flush out inflammation — a cause of delayed-onset muscle soreness, which can occur a couple of days after exercise.

Cold water therapy can have a positive effect on your mental as well as physical state. 10X Health knows the importance of health and wellness and how cold water therapy can help achieve well-being. Reach out to 10X Health today to learn more.

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