Wednesday, February 22, 2023

The Value of Coldness — Worth the Shock?

by Carolyn Abele, MS, LPC

Often when people consider ways to regulate their emotions and body systems, ease aches and pains, and promote healing, they think about warmth. They imagine being cuddled and cozy or sweating in the sauna. After I watched Chris Hemsworth’s docuseries Limitless, my interest in cold therapy was piqued. Cold water exposure has been used in various cultures for many years and is now gaining popularity in the United States as a way to heal, regulate and rejuvenate. Wondering how a cold water plunge can feel good?  The cold water shocks the nervous system and releases endorphins (which feel good!).  Research suggests that taking the plunge for several minutes, several times per week can offer many benefits.  Experts do caution that a gradual introduction to cold water exposure and emersion is best.  An easy way to start your cold water exposure is to turn the hot water all the way off at the end of your shower, and to work on regulating your breathing while your body cools with the cold water.  

The benefits of cold water exposure are still being discovered, and are very promising.  Some of the more common uses are to help with inflammation, decrease depression and anxiety, reduce migraine symptoms, stop panic attacks, speed up cell regeneration and increase the functioning of the immune system.  Cryotherapy (cold therapy) has recently emerged as a treatment option providing regulating and healing benefits.  There are now Cryotherapy centers popping up around the world to offer cold exposure as a way to improve mental and physical health.

Cold water exposure and cold therapy offer alternative, accessible treatment options for a variety of health issues.  Whether you are looking to improve physical functioning, mental clarity, focus, or any of the other possible benefits, information (beyond Social Media) suggests the only downside is the temporary discomfort of being cold. I’ve already started the cold rinse at the end of my showers and plan to regularly use cold water exposure to do a little of my own research into its possible positive health benefits. Seems like all those people who love Polar Plunges are less crazy than I thought, and I am late to the cold party!
Carolyn Abele, MS, LPC works individually with adolescents through adults, and  with  families and parents.  She specializes in working with individuals with anxiety and depression, trauma, self-esteem, as well as helping adolescents and their families with behavior related challenges. To connect with Carolyn, please call 215-354-7941 or visit her website at