What’s the Buzz: When 3 People Tested Their Mind (and Body) With Cold Water Therapy

Cold water therapy

There are some crazy trends going around on the internet, but which ones are worth the hype? What’s the Buzz is a column by lifestyle editor Sangeeta Kocharekar where she (along with our editorial team) will test out viral trends to tell you if it’s worth trying for yourself. Do we recommend doing it, and will we keep it up? Or is it a trend we’ll never want to hear of ever again? Find out here. First up, cold water therapy.

Improved mood, boosted energy levels and deeper sleep are just a few of the many proven benefits of cold water therapy. So, it’s no wonder, really, that the wellness trend boomed in 2021, a year when many of us were willing to try anything to help our wellbeing. Not to mention, a year when we had more time to catch up on Netflix’s series Goop, which featured cold water therapy as part of an episode on the Wim Hof Method.

But what exactly is it? Also called cold therapy or cold hydrotherapy, cold water therapy is the practice of using the cold — think cold showers, taking ice baths or standing in cold chambers — to reap numerous therapeutic benefits. Though still erring on the edge of ‘woo woo wellness’, it’s become more mainstream in recent years, with research proving its perks.

So… what did we think?

Angela Law, Shopping and Commercial Editor

When Sangeeta asked me if I wanted to try this cold water challenge for an entire month, I honestly jumped at the chance. I love these kinds of challenges, but also have very little follow-through unless I’m being held accountable — I’d wanted to try cold water therapy for a while, so was on board quickly.

Going into it, I knew I’d hate it (who enjoys cold water?) but also thought that hopefully by the end of the month I’d enjoy it. A few months ago, I saw an Instagram creator I’d followed for years (@elle_fit) undertake a similar challenge and she explained at the time that she was doing it to prove to herself that she can do hard things. I told myself this repeatedly throughout the month.

My technique was simple: at the end of each shower, I’d edge the water temperature down to cold and stand there breathing slowly for as long as I could handle. Some mornings it was 30 seconds, others it was two seconds.

By the end of the month, I’d done about 20 days, which is a win. I proved to myself that I can do hard things and also found that particularly on days when I felt stressed, a cold shower did me some good. The tingly feeling on my skin afterward forced me out of my head and I liked how it felt.

At the end of the month, I visited Slow House in Bondi to try an ice bath, set to a cool (read: icy) five degrees. I don’t know how people stay in there for minutes (some people last 6-8 minutes, I was told). I sat in the ice bath up to my waist for 30 seconds, hopped out to recover, and then dropped into my shoulders for another 30 seconds. Unfortunately, it did confirm that cold water is not my friend, though I did like how it make my skin feel tingly and fresh for a full hour afterward.

Amanda Bardas, Publisher

My process was that I’d wait until the end of my shower, and then blast the cold water and see how long I could stay under for. It was absolutely a mental test – but as I made my way through the month, I started to look forward to that ‘refreshed’ feeling at the end of my shower, where every nerve in my body feels awake.

My biggest takeaway from taking cold showers is that my mind is stronger than I thought. And it’s true what they say about how it only takes two weeks to form a habit. By the end of the month, I’d be switching the water to cold without even realising.

So, will I keep taking cold showers? Absolutely — but only in the morning. I like the way it really wakes me up and gets my blood pumping first thing. I feel energised and ready to go.

Also, I’d definitely recommend them to anyone. If you feel sluggish and slow in the morning, or even feel puffy after a late night (of drinking, or eating too many salty snacks), then you’ll benefit from a cold morning shower.

Sangeeta Kocharekar, Lifestyle Editor

Like Ange, I knew the only way I’d try this is if I knew I was being held accountable. And I’d heard so much about the benefits of cold water therapy – it was definitely something I wanted to try.

I have to say, though, taking cold showers is hard! A lot harder than I thought. After washing my hair and body in hot water, I’d turn the shower tap to about midway between hot and cold and stand in the chilly water for about a minute — that was all I could do. Also, a lot of the time, my showers were rushed so I didn’t even have time to turn the tap to cold. But every time I did, though, it felt incredibly refreshing, and I did definitely feel energised afterward.

I also visited Slow House in Bondi for an ice bath. I had no idea what to expect, but it was a really cool experience and I’d recommend doing it at least once. I was told to do box breathing — breathing in for a few counts, holding my breath for a few counts, and then exhaling for a few counts — while I was in the bath and that it really is a mind game. I lasted two minutes in the water (I used my phone stopwatch and only started it when I was in up until my shoulders), and I have to tell you: getting to that time was hard! My whole body was numb afterward for a while, but I did, overall, feel really good. And, sitting in the beautiful front room afterward, back in my warm clothes, sipping a hot tea, I felt like I’d really pampered myself.

So, will I keep doing the cold showers? Definitely! Turning your shower tap to cold water right before you get out is such an easy way to really wake up, and the refreshing feeling you get from it is such a treat. As for the ice baths, next time, I’d definitely combine the bath with a sauna session first. And I’d probably bring a friend or two — I think that (healthy) competition would push me to stay in the bath longer so I could reap more of the benefits.

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