Cold Showers Alleviate Depression

Popular wisdom tells us to control passion by hopping in a freezing cold shower — but research shows that icy water cures more than raging hormones. A study by Researcher Nikolai Shevchuk of the Department of Radiation Oncology at Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine found that it is possible that cold showers alleviate depression, or even prevent a depressive episode. The recipe to get the psychological lift includes taking a cold shower — around 68 degrees — for 2 to 3 minutes once or twice daily, preceded by a five-minute gradual adaptation to the temperature. Shevchuk theorizes that short, cold showers may stimulate the locus coeruleus, or “blue spot,” which is the brain’s primary source of noradrenaline — a biochemical that could help mediate depression. As in homeopathy, the body is stressed by a hostile factor–in this case, icy water–that stimulates a healing response.

Sure beats a lobotomy to get over the blues or popping Prozac, or 17 years on Dr. Freud’s couch. No mess, no fuss, no side effects. Of course, the cold water treatment is nothing new, and its applications extend far beyond Dr. Shevchuk’s findings. Naturopaths around the world have been healing with water treatments since ancient Egypt. Here’s another case where the medical establishment just now “discovers” an ancient healing method well known in the alternative arena, comes up with fancy language to explain why the method works and acts like it’s big news.


Having a cold shower stimulates the release of noradrenaline in the brain, a natural chemical associated with mobilizing the brain and body for action by increasing arousal and alertness, promoting vigilance, enhancing retrieval of memory, and focusing attention (Image source: Pixabay)

One of the coolest (no pun intended) hydrotherapy applications involves alternating between hot and cold water in seven or so repetitions. The cold water drives the blood flow to the internal organs, and then the near-scalding water draws the blood flow back out to the skin, resulting in greatly enhanced circulation and intensified detoxification. In spas, this is done in specialized hydrotherapy showers or in hot and cold tubs. Dr. Richard Schulze insists that this method can shrink tumors by up to half within four hours as well as completely cure cancer. Other proponents cite remarkable results in improving overall health and alleviating conditions ranging from arthritis to sinus infections, hypertension, and bone fractures.

Don’t despair if you don’t have access to a spa. You can cook up a version at home in your shower. The recipe here can range from a low end of spending just 30-60 seconds at each temperature extreme, alternating several times at the end of your morning shower to staying in the hot water for five minutes and the cold water for two, alternating back and forth for up to 45 minutes a session. In either case, always end with an icy splash to close your pores and to move your blood out from your core. If very ill, practice this technique at least three times a day.

So the next time your “significant other” gets disgusted with you and tells you to “go jump in a lake,” take it as an opportunity. Find the nearest icy pond, enjoy a dip, and then pop into the nearest hot tub. Your mood will improve, as will your health, even if your lover dumps you thereafter. Or you can just join the L Street Brownies.

Originally published on The Baseline of Health website at

About Joan Swart, PsyD, Forensic Psychologist and lecturer

Joan Swart is a forensic psychologist, lecturer, and business developer at Open Forest LLC. She authored two books titled “Treating Adolescents with Family-Based Mindfulness” (Springer, 2015) and “Homicide: A Forensic Psychology Casebook” (CRC, 2016). She is a contributor to Hubpages and HuffPost.

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Latest update: January 24, 2017
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