So it turns out that the hype around cold showers isn’t bullshit

Spoiler: this is about dopamine.

If you’ve used the internet at all in the past six months, you’re likely aware that cold showers are all the rage. You see influencers promoting it as their big weight loss secret, health gurus calling it the key to longevity, and internet therapists saying that doing it can keep you from being horribly depressed that day.

But if you’ve ever tried it, you’ll know that it’s also a HIGHLY unpleasant experience.

There’s nothing quite like having cold running water running over your bare skin. For something that’s completely harmless, it sure does make you feel like you’re in danger; there’s nothing quite like standing in ice water to send your body straight into fight or flight mode.

But when I tried it after my unreasonably early 5am wakeup this morning, I realized afterwards that I no longer felt an urge to go back to bed. In fact, I found myself not even craving a coffee, which is quite remarkable because every single morning last 8 years, I have woken up and immediately began seeking caffeine.

It turns out, there’s a solid reason for this. There’s a serious biochemical response that happens from cold exposure.

Abruptly exposing your body to acute cold temperatures increases your body’s dopamine concentrations by 250 percent. (For anyone who is not aware already: dopamine is a hormone that is associated with pleasure and motivation, and it is also highly addictive.)

In addition to that, these elevated dopamine levels remain high for extended periods of time.

Substances like cocaine and alcohol are notorious for their affects on dopamine levels, ie. they spike your dopamine levels after you ingest them, followed by a “crash” which leaves your dopamine levels lower than they were to begin with. In addition to that, the elevated effects of cocaine and alcohol only last for around ten minutes before they begin to drop below baseline. This “crash” is what then facilitates the subsequent cravings for more of that substance, as your body desperately searches for a quick way to re-elevate its levels of the hormone back to its equilibrium.

In contrast, cold showers, while they do elevate your dopamine levels significantly, don’t lead to the same “crash” afterwards. Also, the effects cold exposure on dopamine levels last for over 2.5 hours.

So that right there should be enough to motivate you to at least try taking a cold shower. It feels like drugs! Without taking drugs! What a treat!

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