Using Ice Baths for Anxiety: 7 Key Benefits

The physical benefits of conducting regular cold therapy sessions have been well documented, since the eruption of its popularity in recent years. But what about the mental benefits of cold water immersion?

In this article, we discuss the benefits of using an ice plunge for anxiety in detail. We discuss the Vagus Nerve, anti-inflammatory properties and much more. Read on to learn more about this important health topic.

Cold Therapy and Anxiety Research

When discussing the potential mental benefits of ice baths, it’s important to address what research is already out there. The good news is that various studies have taken place to find out more about the relationship between ice baths and anxiety.

Using Cold Showers as a Treatment for Depression

Specifically, there have been some great studies carried out around using cold showers as a treatment for depression.

The first study we’re going to look at is titled ‘Adapted cold shower as a potential treatment for depression’ and was conducted in 2007. During this study, they found that ‘a cold shower is expected to send an overwhelming amount of electrical impulses from peripheral nerve endings to the brain, which could result in an anti-depressive effect.

Furthermore, the ‘Adapted cold shower as a potential treatment for depression’ study found that ‘The proposed method of cold hydrotherapy appears to be effective at alleviating depressive symptoms in approximately two years of experience of the author and two people that he knows (longer experience for them).

This was the result of treating depression using adapted cold showers that were performed once or twice daily.

Something to consider is that cold showers don’t offer as much of an immersive experience as an ice bath, so you should expect the results to be greater or heightened if you decide to purchase an ice bath for regular home-use.

What is Anxiety?

Anxiety can be defined as a feeling of fear, which can be either mild or more severe. It is a feeling that everybody experiences at some point in their lives and can be triggered by various experiences such as sitting in traffic, preparing for an exam or having an interview.

How Do Ice Baths Help Anxiety?

Using ice baths for anxiety can be beneficial in the following seven ways:

  1. Stimulating the Vagus Nerve
  2. Improving hormonal balance
  3. Anti-inflammatory properties
  4. Stress resilience
  5. Reduce panic attacks
  6. Sensory input
  7. Feelings of accomplishment

1. Stimulating the Vagus Nerve

If you haven’t heard of the Vagus Nerve before, it’s an important nerve that connects our brain to all of our organs and is responsible for turning off our “fight-or-flight” response, i.e. our sympathetic state.

By exposing our bodies to cold water, we can have control over when we activate the vagus nerve and therefore have greater control over the level of anxiety we are experiencing.

When we are exposed to cold water, we breathe more slowly, which in turn slows down our heart rate. This can be referred to as parasympathetic mode.

Even just splashing your face with cold water can stimulate the vagus nerve, so imagine the benefits you can expect to receive when immersing your whole body within a Chill Tub.

2. Improving Hormonal Balance

The second benefit of using ice baths for anxiety is the ability to improve hormonal balance. Anxiety and depression is caused because of the chemistry in our bodies and brains, and we have the ability to improve this chemistry through cold water immersion.

Exposing ourselves to cold water promotes the production of positive hormones and neurotransmitters including dopamine, beta-endorphins and noradrenaline.

3. Anti-inflammatory Properties

As discussed in our ‘Does Cold Water Reduce Inflammation’ blog, cold water immersion has some brilliant anti-inflammatory effects. This helps to reduce the time it takes to recover from vigorous exercise.

In addition to overall recovery, ice baths can reduce inflammation that may be related to anxiety and depression.

4. Stress Resilience

The more we partake in regular cold water therapy, the more our stress resilience improves. When our bodies are submerged into really cold water, we experience a psychological stressor and our bodies go into survival mode.

Over time, you’ll be able to handle more stress, meaning that ice baths are a great tool for reducing the amount of stress and anxiety felt.

5. Reduce Panic Attacks

Following on from stress resilience, ice baths can also reduce panic attacks. If you’re somebody who suffers from anxiety and panic attacks, we highly recommend trialling ice baths or general cold water therapy, to see if this improves your situation.

6. Sensory Input

Another reason why ice baths improve anxiety is due to the high amount of sensory input they produce. As humans, we have thousands of cold receptors on our skin, which are all activated when we are exposed to cold water. Once activated, the effect sends lots of sensory information to our brains, and this can distract or pause any neurological activity that may be contributing to feelings of anxiety or depression.

Distract your brain on a regular basis through cold water immersion, and you’re likely to experience some positive mental benefits through this form of mindfulness.

7. Feelings of Accomplishment

Taking an ice bath, especially for the first time, is no easy feat and challenges an individual’s level of resilience. By submerging yourself in ice-cold water for just a few minutes can start to release endorphins due to the feelings of accomplishment felt.

If you were to take up daily cold water therapy, you’d be able to feel this sense of achievement every single day, and this can be a great boost for the brain.

Ice Baths for Improving Anxiety

If you want to learn more about the mental benefits of cold therapy, we recommend contacting us. One of our experts will be more than happy to assist you with your queries and talk you through our range of Chill Tub products.

Frequently Asked Questions

Ice baths or regular cold water therapy can help the nervous system by improving the amount and quality of sleep a person has. By being a natural sleep-aid, ice baths can help us to sleep for longer, giving our bodies more time to rest and recover, thus helping the Central Nervous System (CNS) to reset.