My Favorite Bit of Information From The Week:
This morning I woke up at 6:30 AM and jumped into Lake Michigan with one of my best friends of almost 20 years. It was exhilarating. The cold brought me into the moment in a way that nothing else has been able to this week. I was able to watch the sun come up, and look at the details of my amazing friend, the beautiful beach, and the bumps on my skin. It felt earned, and good – the way I feel when I realize I am truly alive and that the experience of being alive is a positive one. The cold and I have had a growing relationship over the past year.
Awhile ago, I heard an interview with Hugh Jackman where he talked about taking a cold shower every morning, just to remember that even if the water is cold, it is still fresh, clean water falling onto you and cleaning you. This stuck with me, but I didn’t yet know why at the time.
I have started to slowly take cold showers since that time, I have something called Raynaud’s disease where, if I get too cold, my fingers and toes turn white or blue and hurt. It’s not a fun experience, so I was a bit hesitant to try cold therapy at first. But since I have started taking the cold showers, I have noticed an improvement in the Raynaud’s itself, I have symptoms far less than I used to. I also started to notice that on mornings I take a cold shower, my stress and depression can instantly drop and the feeling of clarity and elation lasts. Even last week, when I was having a particularly hard time, I went and jumped into Lake Michigan on Wednesday morning and felt glorious for the rest of the day!
Why is this?
There are several theories on cold water treatment and depression. Although cold water for weight loss, immune system rejuvenation, and decreased inflammation is better documented scientifically, there is still a great deal of support for cold water as a replacement for medication in depression, or an additional means of support if you are coming off medication, supported by a physician of course. I am excited for further research to be done specifically on depression and cold water treatment as a relationship, but I also know what I feel in my own body and I am a believer in the benefits already- at least for myself.
There are two main theories as to why the cold helps depression:
The cold decreases inflammation and increases “happy” hormones in the body, such as dopamine, serotonin, and so forth. Stress, depression, anxiety, and many other mental health disorders create stress in the body – OR, stem from a lack of the bodies ability to produce the same “happy” hormones that the cold gives you. As a result, the cold eliminates and/or severely reduces some of the main physical causes of depression in the body. It is worth noting that depression is often genetic, and that it may not heal things entirely, but it sure as hell helps and has the potential to make a huge life difference. For others depression is used as a descriptor for what occurs in the body while experiencing loss, anxiety from outside sources in your life, or stress. In these cases, the cold can potentially be even more powerful.
Wim Hof, The Iceman, who has climbed Everest in shorts, has proved – as have several of his other practitioners – that cold therapy can alter the sympathetic nervous system (the system we previously thought impossible to manipulate) in order to fight bacteria and endotoxins in the body! Wim’s theory combines three pillars to help you gain control over your body, mind, and nervous system. These pillars are:
1. Breath (he has his own technique that you can check out, but do not try it in cold water at first. It takes time to build up the body and it can be dangerous if you are not used to the cold or technique).
2. Cold immersion
3. Determination with pillars one and two. It takes time to build up endurance.
For more on Wim himself: you can check out this video.
For more on Wim talking specifically about depression: check out this video of him from his website talking to Joe Rogan.
I love this quote from the clip and I think it presents his theory nicely: “Depression is caused by Wrong chemistry, creating inflammation”. Joe oversimplifies treating depression with exercise a bit in this clip in my opinion – I get where he is coming from and I think he is correct in many respects – however It gave me pause and I think it bares a slight warning in case it could be triggering for you as well. Wim brings it back around though and it’s a great clip.
Our primitive brain and our DNA remembers that we used to be exposed to extreme physical stressors (such as cold) all the time, and we are designed to be exposed to these extremes. Without these stressors, our brain is missing something and we don’t function correctly. This can also be thought of as experiencing one extreme stressor to dull another.
For example, I suffer from anxiety and depression, but when I go into the cold I cannot think about anything else because my body is under stress and I have to stay alive, and so the other worries are not important anymore. I get a shot of endorphins that I may have been lacking before the exposure, and a decrease of inflammation in the body, all of which creates a moment of euphoria for me. I am in the moment, my brain is re-calibrated so to speak, and the other worries or physical pains don’t come back for some time. This span of time is different for everyone, and it can get longer the more you practice cold exposure. I feel it for a few hours to a few days before having to expose myself again, some people go months, some years.
It’s worth noting that what is going on chemically and physically in the body when we experience cold is VERY supported. We experience stress in the body when we are cold, we release endorphins, our immune system is strengthened, our metabolism bumps up, and many other benefits as well- for more check out he paragraph under “Cold and Other Benefits”. The theories as to why this happen are different, but these things are definitely happening in the body.
There is an example of a 24 year old woman in the U.K going off her depression medication by replacing it with cold therapy, it was laid out in the documentary The Doctor Who Gave Up Drugs for the BBC. I have found some videos from the documentary that are incredibly helpful for visualizing how everything works:
2. Sarah’s Dr. Tulleken trying cold immersion himself first before having Sarah try, and breaking down the science while doing so.
3.More on Cold Immersion from Mind, one of my favorite mental health resources located in England and Wales:
Cold and Other Health Benefits:
Ben Greenfield has been coming up as a new favorite resource for me. He’s incredibly educated, humble, and just flat out impressive. You can check out Ben’s Bio and story here.
Has an very descriptive blog post on the benefits of cold exposure to the body. If you are interested, I highly recommend the read. The articles at the bottom of his blog post are also all VERY interesting if you want to go deeper with the science behind it all.
I have taken the liberty of copying some of the benefits of frequent cold exposure done the right way from the post below:
- Lowering body fat
- Increasing hormone levels
- Improving sexual performance and fertility
- Lowering blood sugar
- Cutting food cravings
- Improving adrenal function
- Fixing thyroid issues
- Enhancing immune function
- Improving deep sleep quality
- Increasing pain tolerance
- Reducing inflammation
If you are interested in the additional benefits of Swimming along with cold immersion, you can check out my previous post on the topic here. And if you are in Chicago (or want to visit Chicago) and want to jump in Lake Michigan with me, or you are curious about talking further about cold immersion please feel free to reach back to me via this E-mail! Especially when swimming outdoors, it is always smart to have a lifeguard or a buddy present. I would love to be your buddy.
Update On My Show:
Research Update: This past week I took time to listen to interviews from other artists who have done one person shows, it was very liberating and informative! I hope I will be a better creative and partner because of their generous stories.
Fundraising: The project is free for audiences and therefore is completely independently funded – any support is appreciated! If you have already donated, I thank you from the bottom of my heart, you have made it possible to get this far. And if you are not in a place to give a dollar right now, thank you for being here and being a part of breaking the stigma on mental health. Much love!If you would like to donate to my show, share this project with a friend, or find out more about it please check out my gofundme here.
Please check out the One Woman Hamlet Website: www.onewomanhamlet.com
AND! my update Video.
Many, Many thanks: Margo Siwak and Joe Siwak for the design of the logo, and to Jillian Best and Bill Best for the Website creation and Design! I feel very blessed to have such beautiful humans in my life.
Ways to Support: If you would like to donate to my show, share this project with a friend, or find out more about it please check out my gofundme here: https://www.gofundme.com/one-woman-hamlet
Thank You: Thank you VERY much to all who have donated thus far, making this project possible.