If you are living in the northern hemisphere, colder days are ahead. We tend to turn up the heater; put on warmer clothes.
In a previous article, Ariel shared some excellent WildFit Ways to Beat the Winter Blues. I highly recommend reading it.
The winter also brings on some benefits; it gives us more opportunities for cold exposure. Now you may be thinking why you should I expose myself to the cold? Usually, we are thinking of cold exposure when we put on ice on a swollen ankle to stop the swelling.
How The Cold Can Be Your Warm Friend
Benefits To Cold Exposure
Here are four of them:
- Reduce inflammation (Gagnon et al., 2014; R. Shibata, Ouchi, & Murohara, 2009)
- Improved quality of sleep (Raymann, Swaab, & Van Someren, 2008; Yetish et al., 2015)
- Aid fat release (Cannon & Nedergaard, 2004, 2012; Joslin Diabetes Center www. joslin.org, n.d.; Keil, Cummings, & de Magalhães, 2015; Ouellet et al., 2012; van der Lans et al., 2013)
- Regulates blood sugar levels (Imbeault, Dépault, & Haman, 2009; H. Shibata, Pérusse, Vallerand, & Bukowiecki, 1989; Ukkola & Santaniemi, 2002)
There is one benefit that I have experienced through personal experience, and that is increased will power and mental focus.
How Cold Exposure Affected My Mental Focus
I did my first proper ice bath at a workshop where the main focus was the benefits of different breathing techniques and cold exposure. At the end of the workshop we were going to do two rounds of an ice bath; one without any guidance, and one with guidance.
Before this workshop, I had practiced a lot with cold showers, but I had been a little bit hesitant about doing ice baths. I was afraid to do something wrong and get into trouble, like getting hypothermia.
The first round was… excruciating! I’m pretty sure the time slowed down because that is the longest minute I have ever experienced. From the moment I sat down, I felt the panic rising inside, and I was barely able to control it.
After 20 minutes it was my turn again (with the previous ice bath fresh in mind). This time the instructor guided me through. Instead of focusing on how freaking cold the water was (as I did the first time I tried it), he made me focus on how warm my breath was. With this mindset, combined with a breathing technique, I was in the water for three minutes without panicking.
This was a big eye-opener for me, and it showed me how much focus and mindset can do.
Since then I have done many ice baths, and I have no problems staying in the ice cold water for more than 5 minutes.
Here is a safe way to develop your relationship with the cold:
I DO NOT RECOMMEND that you start with ice baths right away! If you don’t have any experience with ice baths, it can be dangerous.
NB! If you one day want to try ice baths, always have a person to watch you and help you if you get in trouble.
Take a 30-second cold shower. This will suck the first couple times you do it. Your goal should be to do it for 30 seconds without panic. Center your mind before you turn the temperature to cold. Focus on your breath. Breath slowly. Relax your body. When you have done this for a couple of weeks, you can gradually increase the time you spend under cold water.
(Disclaimer: You should consult your physician or other health care professional before trying this or any other health or fitness programs.)
Here is a challenge for you: Next time you’re taking a shower, center your mind, turn the turn the temperature to cold, focus on your breath and relax your body. Have fun with this and good luck!