With the Winter solstice behind us, our days will begin to get longer and longer… Hello Summer!
But before we get ahead of ourselves and start daydreaming about spending our Summer days frolicking in the water (it may already be too late), I want to talk about all the hype around swimming in cold (freezing) water.
Every year thousands of people around New Zealand and Australia take the ‘mid-winter plunge’ into the sea, rivers, lakes, and even under their garden hose. Basically, they find some water and plunge themselves into it in celebration of the shortest day of the year. But for some, this isn’t an annual event, but rather a daily ritual.
I know how it sounds... Why would anyone voluntarily throw themselves under cold water, every day?
As crazy as it sounds, the benefits outweigh the discomfort. I for one love the feeling after swimming in cold water, though I haven’t quite managed to introduce it into my daily routine… yet. But after exploring the science behind cold plunges and hearing about the amazing effects they have on some people, they might have to become my new ritual.
Here are 5 reasons why swimming in the winter is good for you:
#1 You will become present
We’re entering Wim Hof territory with this one, but for good reason. The coldness of the water encourages you to focus on your breathing to remain calm while taking the plunge. Deep breathing is a powerful mindfulness tool so when combined with cold water, you’re brought right back to the present moment.
#2 May boost your immune system
The cold temperature shocks your body’s immune system, kickstarting our army of white blood cells so that they are ready to fight off any unwanted ills, chills (ironic, we know), and more.
#3 May improve your circulation
This benefit follows on from number 2. The impact of the cold water alters how your blood flows throughout your body and can have a positive impact on its circulation. As someone who gets pins and needles a lot, this is a BIG win for me.
#4 May help reduce anxiety and depression
Breathing and other mindfulness techniques are known for having a positive impact on managing symptoms of anxiety and depression. Whether it’s getting out in nature to jump in the icy ocean, or finishing off your shower under cold water for 1 minute, the combination of all the benefits may help when feeling a little low or on edge. It all comes back to being present and focusing on your breath.
#5 It is euphoric!
This one is hard to explain. To imagine the feeling of euphoria, you really have to give it a go for yourself. The cold water activates your endorphins - the good feeling you get after working out or laughing with your friends - which can improve your self-esteem, confidence and make you feel euphoric. Trust me, it’s worth the experience!
Remember that your safety is the most important thing. So although there are many benefits to swimming in cold water, it is not for everyone. Please make sure it is safe for you by talking to your doctor.