Everyone says it, but it couldn’t be more true. You never regret a swim.
Though it may seem like cold sea swimming has been the biggest thing to hit both social media feeds and coastal suburbs this year, it’s actually been around a whole lot longer than we think, and for good reason.
The fact that so many people, celebrities, athletes, and wellness advocates are swearing by the ritual and spruiking the benefits on your physical and mental wellbeing is no coincidence.
When practiced on a regular basis, cold water immersion (cold showers, ice baths, sea dunks) can provide long-lasting changes to your body’s immune, lymphatic, circulatory, and digestive systems, having a significant positive effect.
Like what you see? Sign up to our bodyandsoul.com.au newsletter for more stories like this
With a few minutes of cold therapy (and a whole lot of resilience), those who are brave enough to stick through the challenge can also benefit from the endorphin-boosting properties or “good vibes” from having challenged themselves and drowned out that inner saboteur.
So, what is it about cold water immersion that has such a profound effect?
It can improve your lymphatic and immune system
The lymphatic system is a network of vessels that runs throughout your body, clearing bacteria and waste along the way. If we don’t move our system can become stagnant or slow, so the fluid can stagnate or toxins can build up – sometimes creating things like joint pain, infections, and in worst cases, disease.
Cold water immersion causes our lymph vessels to contract, forcing the system to pump the fluids around the body and flush out waste.
It can also trigger the immune system’s white blood cells, telling them to attack and destroy all the unwanted stuff that can be found in the fluid. In short, cold water can help the immune system to keep us living and feeling well.
It can improve your circulation and heart health
It can help stimulate blood flow by helping blood rush to our vital organs, pumping more efficiently, and supplying the body with all the oxygen and nutrients it needs to operate to the best of its ability.
It can also help rebuild our body’s natural ability to regulate temperature – resetting circulation and becoming a little more self-sufficient (a few too many years of over-reliance on home heating anyone?)
It can help to reduce inflammation
Time in cold water can help reduce the temperature of damaged muscle tissue and constrict the blood vessels, helping to reduce swelling and inflammation or even numbing nerve endings giving some immediate pain relief and a natural way of speeding up your recovery – whether from training, sports or general wear and tear of daily life.
It can boost your happy hormones
It can stimulate dopamine (our happy hormone) helping us to feel more energetic and active, not to mention the time spent in nature and facilitating connection with other human beings. Let those good vibes roll!
It can help you feel alive and also relax you
With the rush that comes from activating the fight or flight response from the initial shock, but also the ability to breathe through it activating the parasympathetic response and relaxing the body back down – it’s no wonder so many claim they feel so alert and alive after a dunk or shower, but also super relaxed.
Magnesium-rich seawater has been also said to help reduce stress and help induce sleep – perfect for those long and challenging pandemic days, especially paired with that nature fix if outdoors.
It can increase mental toughness and resilience
Trying something we might not normally be comfortable in doing, getting outside of our comfort zones, and testing ourselves – helping us to get out of our own way can help us get out of our own heads and demonstrate just how resilient we really are.
Getting out of your comfort zone in fact can have a knock-on effect in all areas of your life – reaching your potential. If you’ve overcome your fears and dunked yourself into the cold sea first thing in the morning, imagine what you can accomplish throughout the rest of your day!
So, whether it’s boosting those good vibes from the happy hormones rush, feeling resilient from challenging comfort zones, or getting your zen on from a few deeper breaths and spending time outside and device-free, it’s pretty evident that there are so many incredible benefits to be enjoyed from cold water immersion.
So what are you waiting for?
Entrepreneur, mindfulness and meditation facilitator Aisling Quigley is on a mission is to positively impact the mental health of 1 million people over the next 10 years, through her corporate workshops, retreats, online meditation courses and community initiative, The Sunrise Collective. Find out more here.
Any products featured in this article are selected by our editors, who don’t play favourites. If you buy something, we may get a cut of the sale. Learn more.