Exposure to the cold has been shown to activate the sympathetic nervous system. That’s the part of the nervous system that responds to stress. As a result of the high density of cold receptors in the skin, a cold shower sends an overwhelming amount of electrical impulses from peripheral nerve endings to the brain. This shock to the system has been theorized to offer some benefits including a reduction in symptoms of depression, increased self confidence, improved sleep, lower heart rate variability and more.
Tips for Getting Started
1. Start with your shower cold-ish - If the water that comes out of your shower head is ice cold and too much to bear, then make life a little easier on yourself and go for "cold but not scream in the shower cold" - remember that some of the benefits do come form the shock of the cold so go too easy on yourself and miss some of the benefits.
2. Use a distraction - Play some music to pump you up, listen to a super engaging podcast (actually not this one, I'd rather you didn't associate ARO Wellness Wednesday Podcast with pain even if this was our idea).
3. Keep showers short - Start short and then as you get accustomed to your daily wake-up showers then you can make them longer. Start with 30 seconds, and build from there.
4. Finish with warm water - Take your cold portion of your shower first and then finish with a warm shower.
5. Stick with it - In contrast to suggestion #3, its also worth trying longer cold showers. Much like the old saying in running "the first mile is the worst", cold showers are the same. Once the initial shock has worn off they do get easier.