There’s perhaps no better elixir than soaking in warm water after a long day. Many of us can validate the relaxing benefits of unwinding with a hot bath, but did you know it can also help improve your health and mental wellbeing?
Bathing has a long and history. Submerging ourselves in water, whether in a bathing at home or in a natural body of water is something we do for personal hygiene, leisure and health.
Nowadays of course, a luxurious long soak is associated with solitude and self-care, a little indulgence that many of us look forward to after a stressful day, or a tough workout. Studies show that the benefits of bathing are more than just skin deep. The benefits of taking a bath have been scientifically proven and can ensure optimal health of the mind and body.
Your skin releases endorphins in response to the soothing warm water the same way that endorphins are released when you feel the sun on your skin. Soaking in warm to hot water can be therapeutic and reinvigorating because blood flow increases to the skin.
Since the beginning of time, bathing has been about more than just personal hygiene. Cleanliness was seen as a symbol of power and beauty, and public bathing was a way to socialise and build communities.
Hydrotherapy has been practiced for centuries. Both the use of hot and cold water can have beneficial effects on the body. Boiling water can be sourced naturally from hot springs which are high in healing minerals. Cryotherapy or ice baths, can help to alleviate muscle strain and many athletes including runners will submerge themselves in freezing waters to counteract the damage or strain induced by exercise.
Ancient cultures have long believed in the healing effects of water. Similar to mindfulness, the Japanese practice of “sento” which is the use of public baths to cleanse both the body and the mind.
A Japanese study looked into the mental health benefits of bathing. They found that bathing, compared to a quick shower, transpired in less stress, tension-anxiety, anger-hostility, and depression.
In a German study, participants with depression reported a boost in mood after soaking in a 40C bath for 30 minutes. In fact, in this experiment, regular baths proved to be more effective in aiding depression than aerobic exercise.
A bath can be the ultimate in self-care. And with the right setting and products the effect can be enhanced a thousandfold.
A good bath might be seen as a little luxury now and then, but beyond some essential self-care, it actually has scientifically proven benefits for your mental health.
Warm baths improve mental and emotional health and decreases stress hormones and more balanced serotonin levels, which help regulate mood and improves states of depression and over all wellbeing.
Bathing can reduce pain and inflammation and calm the nervous system, reducing the levels of stress and anxiety in the body and calm brain and nervous system.
A relaxing bath help many people sleep well and creates a good environment for meditation, thought and escape from everyday stress and tension.
Increased body temperature at night helps regulate our natural circadian rhythms, leading to better sleep patterns, along with improved quality of sleep and overall wellbeing.
Depression is thought to be related to low levels of serotonin, and research has shown that serotonin-releasing neurons connected to mood-regulating regions of the brain fire in response to increases in body temperature.
If you find taking a warm bath relaxing and it makes you feel good, there is now even more reason to take the plunge.
Before you jump in the tub ill-prepared, here are a few tips on how to create a soothing experience that will help you rebalance in the comfort of your own home.
Pick a time when you are unlikely to be distracted. Peace and quiet will help you to relax. Close the door and say no to endless distractions.
Use products that you find relaxing: While bath oils and aromatherapy blends may take your bath from enjoyable to life-changing.
How to take a good bath
1. Get the temperature spot on
Warm baths help ease physical tension, relax anxious muscles, and relives overall tensions in body and mind. They can even aid with digestion problems, and lower blood sugar levels.
Consider the temperature of the room. A Japanese study showed that bathing in 41C water in a 25C room increased body temperature more than taking a bath in a 14C room. However, if taking a bath to promote sleep before bed, the room temperature should be cooler: 18C is ideal.
Use warm (not hot) water: Some people may experience dizziness or weakness when the temperature is too hot. The ideal temperature for a soaking bath is between 40C and 45C.
Large and sudden increases in temperature put strain on the heart, so if you suffer from heart problems, avoid hot baths – particularly on cold days.
2. Essential Oils & Products
Spa Therapy Prep
3. Light it up
Keep your mind quiet, and focus on the present moment. The sound of the water, the aromatic experience. The complete relaxation
Many of us are exposed to blue light all day in the form of computers and mobile devices, leaving us mentally drained and prone to headaches. If your bathroom has lots of natural light, consider a daytime bath. Natural light can lead to an improved sense of wellbeing, and better sleep. In the evening, bathe by candlelight, as exposure to artificial light at night suppresses melatonin, interfering with sleep timing and quality.
4. Set the tone
Leave technology behind. Enjoy the silence, or lose yourself in natural sounds like rainforest sounds or peaceful rains. Studies show that nature sounds can decrease the body’s sympathetic response (that anxiety jolt that comes from fight-or-flight) and can increase feelings of relaxation.
If you struggle to meditate, then try a few minutes in the bath. It is the perfect setting as your body is physically relaxed, and makes it easier to empty your mind. Close your eyes and concentrate on long, deep breaths. Keep your mind quiet, and focus on the present moment. The sound of the water. The smell of essential oils. The complete relaxation.