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Cold exposure – Build tolerance and befriend winter

There are numerous benefits of cold exposure, and a plunge into icy temperatures not only triggers several processes in the body to keep it warm, but also increases mental awareness, and strengthens nervous, immune and circulatory system.

Even though our bodies crave the effortless state of comfort, cold therapy is not a new invention and the knowledge of benefits of cold exposure reaches as far back as 3500 BC. The Edwin Smith Papyrus, the most ancient medical text, repeatedly mentioned the use of cold as therapy. Moreover in recent years cold therapy has gained back its popularity due to the numerous health benefits.

Strengthens immune system

The immune system is the body’s defence mechanism that helps to protect it from various viruses, bacteria that could cause diseases. And there are number of different ways how you can naturally boost and strengthen your immune system. For example, getting enough sleep, eating healthy, exercise and move regularly, supply your body with vitamins and good bacteria, when necessary.

Another natural way to boost your immune system is by exposing yourself to cold temperatures, like taking a cold shower. Studies have shown that cold water immersion triggers fight or flight response creating increased levels of white blood cells, adrenaline and cortisol shortly before the body shifts to a relaxation response. Thus strengthening your immune system.

Improves sleep

Good night’s rest is an essential part of physical and mental wellbeing. Sleep hygiene can be improved in various ways, starting from creating the right atmosphere in your bedroom to putting on background music that creates feelings of safety and calm.

Our bodies follow a circadian rhythm or a sleep-wake cycle that is a natural internal system that regulates our state of sleepiness and wakefulness over a 24 hour period. Studies have shown that dysfunction of circadian rhythm can affect sleep quality. When we fall asleep our body temperature drops, however those suffering from insomnia seem to be unable to regulate body’s heat, thus being unable to fall asleep. However, a cold shower one hour before bed may help to trigger sleep signals and help you to get a better night’s rest.

Strengthens nervous system

Cold exposure acts as a small workout for the nervous system. So same as physical exercise strengthens our bodies, cold exposure strengthens our nervous system. Cold exposure stimulates autonomic nervous system and induces a stress response; however not all stress is bad. In the climate controlled environments with heaters and air conditioning many people’s bodies are not under enough thermal stress. Thus the body’s regulatory system might not get a proper ‘work-out’. Cold showers give the needed ‘work-out’ and train your body’s resilience to stress.

Improves circulation

As soon as cold water hits your skin, your whole body gets a shock. The heart must instantly react with a rapid and immediate blood flow to keep the body warm. Hence, the lungs have to assist the heart with powerful and deep breaths. By shocking the body with cold water your heart and lungs immediately react, thus enhancing circulation thanks to the stimulation of the cardiovascular system.

Cold therapy also gives you an energy boost and helps to quicker recover after a workout, as it decreases inflammation and helps to remove toxins as blood flow increases. Hence, it always feels good to jump into a cold shower after a workout. When you immerse yourself in the cold water your whole body reacts, thus giving an active meditation experience while also releasing tension within your mind and body. As winter approaches and temperatures drop it might be a good time to look the cold in the eye and embrace it, so take a cold shower or head to the beach nearby and immerse yourself in the icy waters.

Learn more about the numerous benefits of cold therapy and The Wim Hof Method.

Baiba Šustere

Baiba Šustere is a staff writer and wellness expert for My Good Planet. Specialising in mindfulness, health and wellbeing, Baiba's work has inspired and touched many of our readers over the course of her time with us. Her time studying to become a Yoga teacher in India gave her a unique perspective on life; one which she generously shares with us regularly.