I have noticed since lockdown people seem to be reacting in waves, from initially just sitting at home, maybe learning a new crafting hobby, or decorating, decluttering, baking cakes, putting on weight and not really exercising. Then lots of people bought dogs- the price of puppies shot up with increased demand- people got outside and started exercising more. Then suddenly, in the last few months on my Facebook feed everybody and his dog are getting into ice cold rivers and reservoirs up to the neck and feeling great afterwards. I’d also like to try it but at the moment I can’t get anywhere without my own transport during lockdown and I think I’d rather start in summer and ease myself into the colder water gradually. I felt great after wild swimming in Lyn Padarn in Wales, and dipping in a mountain stream which was much colder (though it was June)!
Coldwater therapy, less than 15 degrees should be cold enough, has long been thought to have beneficial effects on health, for example: boosting the immune system; increasing brown fat and aiding weight loss; increasing alertness: decreasing muscle healing time after exercise; and improving mood. Besides it was endorsed by Doctor Buteyko as part of his method – tempering or toughening, hormesis. Done correctly and appropriately, the cold water therapy can increase resilience and adaptability.
However cold therapy is best done after you have had some recovery in your breathing, as there can be negative effects. Exercise is good for health too, but not if someone in poor health does too much too soon; it’s best to focus on the breathing first.
Never go into cold water alone, it’s best to go with someone trained to help. If in any doubt consult your doctor before you try any of the methods. Especially if you have heart or blood pressure problems as cold shock may be contraindicated. Check this: Cold Water Shock – Water Safety Tips – Know The Risks (rnli.org)
Anyway, I’m doing three things that are less extreme but also seem to be working for me, also with cold water. Remember I’m just telling you what I find works for me – there are always a chance of negative effects of cold for some people even with these gentler methods.
1) After having a warm shower I turn the water on to cold. Initially I was turning it gradually to cold and then only staying in for a few seconds and bit by bit I got used to turning it suddenly onto cold and then staying in a bit longer up to a minute. And sometimes I get into the shower with it completely cold to start with. I don’t shiver when I get out and I feel warm. This is “non-shivering thermogenesis” suggesting activation of brown fat.
2) Since the summer I have started a light jogging habit round the local park in running sandals and to my surprise I’m doing it still even in the rain, frost and snow. I’m jogging round the park each morning for about 15 to 20 minutes in barefoot sandals- the rest of me is well warm in my coat, hat and gloves but feet bare apart from these thin sandals. I feel much warmer, my feet are never cold in the house now even though I don’t wear shoes or socks and I’ve been able to turn the temperature down by about 4°C so it’s saving me fuel money. (Not cold water you say? Well my feet are often wet, and when it’s below zero outside, they are definitely in the cold).
3) If I feel I need to be woken up or my mood is low, I take a couple of ice cubes out of the freezer and just rub them around my face, especially on the cheek just below the eye and that’s like a mental reset; I forget about my problems and feel much happier and more alert afterwards. The mammalian diving reflex is activated, stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system, slowing the heart rate, to relax us and calm us. One Ice Cube, Russian Tempering (breathingcenter.com)