24 Apr TAKE OUR ‘SPRING INTO SUMMER’ CHALLENGE
A Drop fell on the Apple Tree –
Another – on the Roof –
A Half a Dozen kissed the Eaves –
And made the Gables laugh –
Have you ever surrendered to a spring or summer rain shower?
I can vividly remember one such moment. Caught out with no hood or brolly to hide under, I realised I had no choice: I was going to get wet. Something in me let go and I held out my arms, turning my face to the sky and letting the full weight of rain patter and ping onto my bare skin. Twenty years later, I can still recall the sensation. And the exhilaration.
When better than springtime to rouse your inner child, to cast away all the dull layers accumulated over months of hibernation, and bring you brand spanking new into the world?
At Baressential we’ve come up with an idea to help us find that exhilaration again. It requires a little bravery, but it’s worth it. Because this particular wake-up call from nature also yields an abundance of hidden gifts. And if you try it, you might also get a lovely gift from us.
WAKE-UP CALL FROM NATURE
A dance with a downpour is hard to replicate. And unless you have the sea or a lake on your doorstep, you can’t take that kind of plunge either. So the best way most of us can create that spring zing is to take a cold shower.
Let’s be frank, it’s not an altogether appealing prospect – especially in the morning. But there’s another way to look at it. In meeting water as our ancestors did, at its natural temperature, we are actually being kind to ourselves.
Intuitively it makes sense. As with barefoot walking and a Palaeolithic diet, our bodies have evolved over millions of years to interact with our environment in a holistic way: to touch the earth directly, massaging pressure points in our feet; to digest certain foods more easily, repair and cleanse while fasting; to respond naturally to changes in temperature.
These interactions benefit our health in subtle ways we are only now coming to understand.
Cold water bathing results in glowing skin and shiny hair, a boost to your immune system and self-healing power, vigour and alertness, better concentration and mood elevation. There’s even evidence it may offer relief from anxiety and depression. And it does get easier, even enjoyable. It’s the starting that’s the hardest part. So, how to get started?
We’re throwing down the gauntlet! All of us at Baressential are going to try at least one week of cold showers before the end of May, and we challenge you to do the same. If you try it for a week and send feedback in our comments section, your name will go into the hat to win one of our new range of Spring Spa shower sets.
The good news is that some of us have already dipped our toe (and then the rest) in the water and come up with some advice to ease you more gently into the experience.
10 GOOD REASONS TO TRY IT…
Alternate hot and cold water-dousing is familiar to anyone who has ever been to a spa or sauna, but the practice is not new. From ancient times, people have observed the positive effect of cold water on everything from health to beauty to mood. The benefits are layered and interwoven, creating a multiplicity of wonders we are only beginning to evidence through science.
TO SHARPEN YOUR MIND
- Energy and alertness: Every internal system gets a brisk exercise in a cold shower. The mild shock of cool water kicks off the body’s fight-or-flight response, stimulating heartbeat and blood flow, and releasing adrenaline to create a natural high. (Learn more here)
- Focus, memory and concentration: Forget those five cups of coffee to kick-start you in the morning. You won’t need caffeine and other stimulants.
- Willpower and confidence: Yes, when you get out of that shower you can take on the world!
TO NURTURE YOUR BODY
- Natural beauty: a splash of cold water tightens skin pores and stimulates blood circulation, giving you a smooth, glowing complexion. Unlike hot water, it won’t strip away the natural oils from your skin, so is especially soothing if you have eczema or other skin conditions.
- Your hair will also thank you: it closes the cuticles, giving it a lustrous shine and tightens your scalp to reduce hair loss.Boost immunity and repair injury: As well as stimulating blood flow, cold water immersion has been shown to increase white blood cell count (Learn more here) and cell repair, reducing pain and inflammation in injuries. These days sports professionals have taken this idea to extremes, bathing in ice water (cryotherapy) to speed-heal athletes (Learn more here). Makes a cold shower seem like child’s play in comparison!.
- Protect male fertility: hot water inhibits sperm count, so using cooler water will help if you’re trying for a family. (Learn more here)
TO LIFT YOUR SPIRITS
- Wash away the blues: The euphoria one feels coming out of a cold shower or sea swim is a powerful thing. There’s even tentative evidence to suggest it may relieve depression and anxiety. (Learn more here).The ‘stress’ response your body has to cold water is the same ‘fight or flight’ reaction it would have if faced with a threat: heart pumping, short breath, adrenaline release etc…
The theory is that if you expose yourself to this repeatedly, the response diminishes – to the cold, but also to other stresses in your life, including emotional and psychological ones. You become ‘stress adapted’.
- Practice mindfulness: Nothing brings you into the moment as quickly as a plunge into cold water. Apart from waking the entire body, inside and out, it brings the spirit alive. You can make this part of a mindfulness or meditation ritual, focusing on breathing and sensation. We have 3.5 times more nerve endings to respond to cold than heat, so there’s plenty to feel!
- The power of acceptance: As with walking in the rain, the secret to enjoying a cold shower is acceptance, allowing it to be what it is. If you can see the sensation of cold as invigorating and exciting rather than unpleasant, it helps. But if you can approach it with no judgement at all, good or bad, but only with curiosity, it has the power to transform not only your shower but your whole life. Or so says Taoism – we’re still working on that one!
- Reconnect with nature: Even if you can’t stand under a waterfall or swim in the sea just now, you can prepare your mind and body for the possibility – wake yourself up in expectation of all of the vivid, exciting living that lies before you.
In Japan, people have followed the Shinto practice of waterfall bathing, or misogi, since ancient times (Learn more here). The water has to be a refreshing 15 degrees, and there are various pre-waterfall rituals to prepare for the experience. The cleansing is metaphorical: it is your whole soul that is being cleansed.
When travel becomes possible again (soon, we hope) there are some wonderful waterfalls and swimming holes around the world you’ll be able to plunge into without hesitation (Learn more here). Until then, there’s always the shower…😁
A JOURNEY OF A THOUSAND MILES BEGINS WITH ONE STEP …
Unless you’re a year-round sea swimmer, it’s not so easy to take the leap into cold showering. So, some of us at Baressential tried it out for you first to see if we could find the kindest, easiest way to gain those benefits.
Here are a few things we found out:
- Starting off, don’t step straight into a cold shower. It’s just too hard. Tried once – never again! Take a normal hot shower first and finish off with an invigorating cold blast. You could also lower the temperature gradually to acclimatise your body, though at some point it’s just easier to take the plunge and be done with it.
- It’s easier to start with your back to the water before turning to face it.
- You need to stay under a couple of minutes to get full benefit, but there’s nothing to say you can’t work up to that. Extreme athlete Wim Hof suggests starting with 30 seconds and increasing each day to whatever you can manage. The first time you do it, half a minute will seem like an eternity. But after a few more, you’ll be surprised at how the time will fly.
- Wash your hair in the hot shower, so you have time to rinse properly. But wait and soap your body in the cold – having something to do makes it easier to stay in longer. Rubbing the arms and legs vigorously is also a distraction. Or, for a less intense experience, leave your hair out of it and just douse your face and body.
- There’s nothing to say you have to do it in the morning – although if you do it will set you up for the day like nothing else. You can work up a sweat exercising at any time of day and then jump in for a cooling refresh. But it’s not advised in the evening as it’ll stimulate you too much just before bed.
- A veteran sea swimmer at the Forty Foot bathing area in Dublin once gave me some good advice: go in, come out, and go in again.
The first time your body hits cold water it goes into mild shock, getting all jittery and making you gasp. On returning, though, it knows what to expect and the whole thing becomes much more pleasant. This worked a treat with sea swimming and it works with the shower too. If it’s too much, step aside for a few seconds and then back again. Also, each day you do it, your body will be less surprised and it will become a refreshing pick-me-up you may even look forward to.
- Remember, you have complete control: you can take it one step at a time. And if you wait till there’s no one else in the house, there’s no one to hear you scream – so go for it!
- As with vigorous exercise, if you have any health issues, particularly with the heart, check first with your doctor that you’re good to go. And if you’re feeling under the weather, leave it a few days before trying.
From Kate and the Baressential team.