We have seen plenty of ice baths and cold plunge benefits and even made a blog related specifically to their physical benefits proven by science. But what about the mental ice bath benefits?
Research shows 35% of elite athletes suffer from depression or anxiety. So, can a cold bath alleviate some of the symptoms? In this blog, we’re covering everything you need to know about the mental cold plunge benefits.
1. Reduces Stress and Depression
Cold exposure and taking an ice bath increase the production of norepinephrine, a neurotransmitter related to focus, attention, and mood. Hence, after someone takes an ice plunge, they can feel a feeling of happiness and calmness.
That same feeling of calmness reduces stress, anxiety, and depression, yet taking an ice bath itself is quite challenging. Most sessions last about 2-5 minutes, varying in temperature and size.
Moreover, most athletes, like the current UFC lightweight champion, Islam Makhachev, pair an ice bath with heat therapy in a sauna to maximize their performance, making them mentally and physically resilient. We’ll cover the resilience part in the next heading.
Stress, depression, and anxiety are some of the most common mental health disorders causing millions of people to have trouble worldwide. Cold therapy is one of the most effective treatments for decreasing cortisol, a stress hormone.
Studies have also noted that people who regularly take ice baths have a noticeable improvement in their mood compared to those who don’t. An ice bath increases the production of endorphins, which has a mood-boosting effect. It increases blood flow, which delivers more oxygen to the body, ultimately giving you a better mood.
It also keeps the immune health in check, which is noted to have noticeable positive mood effects. All in all, ice baths can help with anxiety, depression, and bad mood by even solving problems like poor sleep, increasing pain tolerance, and athletic performance.
2. Builds Mental Resilience
Mental resilience is one of the most important things a human can have. We live in a world where resilience isn’t as it once was. Thankfully, an ice plunge is a great way to build mental toughness. Whether you’re an athlete looking to push yourself to the next level or an entrepreneur yearning for more decision-making power, an ice bath is a perfect way to increase mental resilience.
But how does it happen? Here are some ways a cold plunge builds mental resilience and toughness.
Increases the Pain Tolerance
One of the first things an ice bath user notices is how hard it is to prepare themselves for an ice bath. It takes a lot of mental power just to do cold water immersion. Why? Because it’s hard. Ice baths can help you build up pain tolerance for discomfort. While pain tolerance, for the most part, is genetic and varies, ice baths can improve it, making you successful in almost every area of life.
So, whenever someone faces a challenge in life, they don’t just back off or give up quickly. By regularly taking ice baths, entrepreneurs like Tasso Roumeliotis, founder, and CEO of Location Labs, have been doing ice baths for about four days a week just for their mental benefits.
Self Control and Sense of Accomplishment
Self-control is the hardest in life. Most people start a diet, then give up fairly quickly. Some people start going to the gym and leave in a week. With ice baths, it’s a challenge that builds mental grit, self-control, and a sense of accomplishment.
When you come out of that ice bath with bright colors, you show that you are in control of your life. It pushes you to become better, motivated, and not give up in adversity. Another benefit of cold therapy is that it gives you a sense of accomplishment, which increases your self-esteem.
3. Restores Mental State and Energy
An ice bath conditions the brain, mental state, and energy by improving its ability to conquer daily life. Cold plunge increases the serotonin level, ultimately improving mental energy and state. Cold plunge also reduces stress and anxiety by triggering endorphins, which boosts your mood and energy.
Another benefit of using an ice bath is that it helps in increasing the level of dopamine, and no, not the same dopamine that we get by using mobile phones and social media. However, it’s dopamine that comes after a lot of mental struggle and actually feels good.
Moreover, ice baths also increase the metabolism rate and blood flow in the brain, which makes you feel energized, powerful, and calm at the same time. Being calm is a skill that can be improved over time. With ice baths, you also get other benefits like reduced inflammation, improving your mental state, overall health, and well-being.
Moreover, cold plunges can help improve focus and concentration by increasing the level of alertness of your body. It takes away mental fog and reduces fatigue. All the above benefits are linked to a better move, improved energy levels, and enhanced focus.
4. Regulates Your Hormones
Ice water immersion is known to increase the production of endorphins and decrease cortisol in the body. It is also linked to an increased production of white blood cells, which helps fight infections. By regulating your hormones, ice baths have become a favorite tool to many, making it one of the best ways to have physical and mental benefits.
But since we’re talking about all the mental benefits, regulating hormones is how an ice bath provides many of these. Firstly, let’s talk about the increased production of endorphins. Endorphins are also known as “feel-good” brain chemicals. It is a natural pain reliever and mood boost.
The mood-boosting effect is what occurs when you take an ice bath. Moreover, it also relieves pain, making it an ideal mental health-improving tool. Then we have cortisol, a stress hormone. When the level of cortisol increases, our anxiety and stress increase too.
With ice baths, we see reduced levels of cortisols which alleviates many mental health problems. Some studies also show that an ice bath increases the testosterone level in the human body.
Testosterone is not only important for physical benefits but also mental benefits. For example, it increases your ability to push yourself more and take risks, which is important for any athlete or even a regular human being.
5. Gives Confidence to Push Yourself
An ice bath provides four main benefits, which make you push yourself. They are as follows:
- Increases pain tolerance and reduces pain perception.
- Improves mental toughness.
- Gives a sense of accomplishment.
- Increases the endorphin production in the body.
When it comes to increased endorphin production, you get mood-boosting effects. So when you take an ice bath, the body produces more endorphins, reducing stress. It makes it easier for your body to push more. By decreasing the level of stress and anxiety, you’re boosting your mood. And by getting a sense of confidence, you’re most likely to push yourself in every endeavor of life.
With reduced pain perceptions, ice baths numb the nerve endings in the skin, making it easier to recover from the workout's pain and to push yourself further if needed. And when you get an increased sense of accomplishment, it’s generally easier to push yourself even further in the future.
A lot of it is also placebo which should be noted, but at the end of the day, studies and research have shown that ice baths are ideal for building mental toughness and pushing yourself through the pain.
6. Calms the Vagus Nerve
Ice baths are especially useful in calming the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve is a long nerve from the brainstem to the abdomen. It is known for normal functioning like heart rate, mood, and digestion.
When you do a cold plunge, the body goes into a state of shock due to the ice, and it causes a lot of hormones to release, like adrenaline. And when these hormones are released, it causes the vagus nerve to calm down.
Moreover, ice baths also help produce nitric oxide, which helps reduce inflammation and increase blood flow. This can also calm the vagus nerve. Cold water immersion has been shown to activate the vagus nerve, according to a study.
This phenomenon happens when sudden stress is introduced to the body, making the core body temperature normal. The body does it by using the vagus nerve itself. Here’s how it goes:
- After the body is given a sudden shock, it activates the parasympathetic nervous system using the vagus nerve.
- The nerve sends messages to the brain under stress, and in response, the brain releases a hormone called norepinephrine, a feel-good hormone
7. Improves Brain Function
Ice baths and ice-cold showers have been shown to have positive mental health effects like energizing the mind, better brain function, enhanced mental focus, and a sense of positivity. It improves brain function by regulating different hormones, but there’s more to that.
In a study, some participants took cold showers, and others took hot showers. It was revealed that the cold shower had a significant decrease in cortisol levels compared to the hot shower.
In general, if someone takes an ice bath or ice-cold shower, they will reduce the cortisol level in the body, ultimately removing stress from the equation and making the brain work normally.
Cold water immersion reduces cortisol which is a stress hormone. It increases the endorphin levels to minimize the pain perception of the body. It increases norepinephrine which boosts focus and regulates human brain function.
Lastly, it increases testosterone, increasing energy, muscle development, and even bone growth. However, testosterone is positively linked with risk-taking abilities, and that’s why, since the dawn of human times, men with testosterone have been linked with hunting and leading.
8. Reduces Migraines and Headaches
Migraines and headaches are among the most common problems affecting more than 10% of people worldwide. Having migraines and headaches can disrupt normal human functioning, so we must do everything possible to counter them.
Even though ice-cold water is hard, multiple studies have shown that ice baths can relieve the symptoms of both migraines and headaches. It makes the brain work normally and efficiently and regulates hormones.
The main idea of ice baths reducing migraines is that it cures inflammation linked to many chronic decreases like migraines and headaches. Ice baths can help with migraines by increasing the blood flow to the brain.
Start Your Cold Plunge Journey with NordicWay
Nordicway offers some of the best ice tubs with specifications built ideally for athletes and people looking to upscale their ice bath experience. The tub comes with a 350L capacity, ideal for even a big person, and some of the most premium fabrics that will be durable in all seasons.
Here are some of the benefits you get by using NORDICWAY:
- Maintains the temperature for longer using triple-layer fabric.
- Comes with an ice drainage system.
- All weather-leak-proof shell.
- 350L upgraded capacity.
- Comes with a full-plunge kit.
Chill Out in Style: Get Your NordicWay Ice Bath - 100% Leak-Proof, Sustainable.