Do Cold Showers Reduce Stress?

Cold showers and intentional breathing are gaining popularity for their potential to reduce stress. Just ask Dutch athlete Wim Hof, a Guinness World Record holder 18 times over, thanks to his combination of cold exposure and intentional breathing.


Cold Showers Bring More Than Just a Chill Vibe

The temperature can vary, but cold water is typically around 50 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit (10 to 21 degrees Celsius). Now, the perks of exposing yourself to cold water go beyond refreshment:

  • It triggers cold thermogenesis, releasing serotonin, cortisol, dopamine, norepinephrine, and β-endorphin, the body's natural mood boosters.
  • Scientifically, cold showers support blood circulation, fortify the immune system, and even do wonders for your skin and hair, say studies.
  • They also activate brown fat cells, helping with weight management and metabolism.
  • The shock of cold water prompts deep breathing, pumping oxygen through your body and sharpening mental alertness.
  • But that's not all – studies suggest that cold water exposure can also reduce cortisol, the stress hormone, calming the nervous system overall.

So, embracing the cold not only revitalizes your body but also provides a natural remedy for stress, making it a win-win for your physical and mental health.


Breathing: The Game-Changer

We breathe constantly, but how often do we truly tap into its transformative potential?

Cold showers undeniably have several benefits, offering a refreshing start to the day, but the true magic happens when you pair them with intentional breathing.

Practice intentional breathing, specifically diaphragmatic breathing. This practice harmonizes with your body's response to cold exposure, creating synergy beyond the invigorating shock of icy water. As you engage in intentional and controlled diaphragmatic breathing, you not only reduce stress but also enhance relaxation and sharpen your mental focus.

Intentional breathing influences the autonomic nervous system, which is responsible for our involuntary bodily functions. The sympathetic state of our nervous system, often associated with stress and the fight-or-flight response can dominate our daily lives. However, intentional diaphragmatic breathing acts as a switch, gracefully guiding the system towards the calming parasympathetic state.

In addition, intentional breathing amplifies the benefits of cold water exposure. As you immerse yourself in the cold, deliberate breathing oxygenates your body that not only rejuvenates your cells but also promotes a profound sense of alertness.

Here's how to do it in 5 simple steps:

  1. Place one hand on your chest and the other on your abdomen below your ribcage.
  2. Inhale slowly and deeply through your nose, keeping your chest relatively still.
  3. Exhale slowly through your mouth, feeling your abdomen contract.
  4. Let your diaphragm move downward as you inhale, allowing your belly to rise.
  5. Aim for a 4-second count for both inhalation and exhalation.

Wim Hof: Cold and Breath Guru

Wim Hof has perfected the art of combining cold exposure and intentional breathing. His method isn't just about enduring icy waters; it's a carefully crafted dance between specific breathwork patterns and those invigorating ice baths.

He claims it's not just about surviving the cold. It's about thriving in it. The result? Enhanced mental clarity that's sharper than ever, energy levels through the roof, and stress levels taking a nosedive, report people.

Now, here's the cool part (pun intended): You don't need an ice bath to benefit; simply lower your shower temperature and practice intentional breathing for three to five minutes.

5 Tips to Dive In

  1. Start with lukewarm water; gradually decrease the temperature to acclimate.
  2. Stand tall and let the cold water flow.
  3. Practice deep diaphragmatic breathing before lowering the water temperature.
  4. Repeat diaphragmatic breathing for 5 to 10 cycles.
  5. During this practice, pay attention to your thoughts if any arise, even if naturally, all your attention is on the discomfort of the cold water and your breathing pattern. If discomfort arises, remind yourself it'll pass – you're stronger than you think.

For additional breathing exercises, consider the Oxa App, which will provide personalized techniques to facilitate your practice.

Also Read: How to Calm Your Mind When You Feel Distressed – Oxa


Coupling cold showers and intentional breathing is a powerful anti-stress tool, extending beyond a mere wake-up routine. It is a holistic practice that addresses not only the physical but also the mental aspects of well-being.

So, the next time you decrease your shower's temperature, remember that you're not just embracing a chill; you're engaging in a ritual that nurtures both your body and mind and cleans the stress away from your body.

Also Read: Breathing Exercises for Pain - 6 Techniques and Tips – Oxa


Q: Why should I consider taking cold showers when warm ones are so much more comfortable?

Cold showers trigger cold thermogenesis, releasing serotonin, cortisol, dopamine, norepinephrine, and β-endorphin, boosting blood circulation, fortifying the immune system, and even benefiting your skin and hair. Studies also suggest that exposure to cold water can reduce cortisol, the stress hormone, providing a natural remedy for stress and improving overall well-being.

Q: What exactly is intentional breathing, and how does it enhance the benefits of cold showers?

Intentional breathing, specifically diaphragmatic breathing, harmonizes with your body's response to cold exposure. It not only enhances relaxation but also sharpens mental focus. This deliberate breathing influences the autonomic nervous system, guiding it towards the calming parasympathetic state. The combination of intentional breathing and cold showers is a powerful stress-reduction duo.

Q: How has Wim Hof achieved mental clarity, increased energy levels, and reduced stress through his method?

Wim Hof has mastered the art of combining cold exposure and intentional breathing. His method involves specific breathwork patterns and ice baths, creating a synergy that enhances mental clarity, increases energy levels, and reduces stress.

Q: Can anyone benefit from the combination of cold showers and intentional breathing, or is it only for seasoned practitioners?

Absolutely! Whether you're a beginner or experienced, you can reap the benefits. The key is to start with lukewarm water and gradually decrease the temperature. Practice deep diaphragmatic breathing before lowering the water temperature and then during the cold shower, paying attention to your thoughts during the process.

Hakima Tantrika
May 28, 2024

MA, RYT 500, and ICF-certified coach is a holistic physical and mental health writer and educator. With global recognition, she's enriched over 2 million readers through her blog and shaped 800+ instructors worldwide. Fluent in four languages, Hakima blends extensive knowledge and a rich multicultural insight, making her a distinguished authority in the wellness sphere.

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Get the Oxa Sensor and your choice of garment - lounge-wear shirt, bra, or adjustable chest strap. Your purchase includes access to the Oxa app which gives personalized data summaries and insights, as well as access to breathing exercises to teach you how to harness the power of your own breath.