Cold plunging, also known as cold water therapy, is an ancient ritual that is widely practiced by many cultures and gaining popularity for its wide variety of wellness benefits.
Co-founder of Be Ceremonial, Megan Sheldon first experienced cold plunging in Tofino, BC at the very beginning of the pandemic. She incorporated this ritual into a ceremony she created to bid her 30s farewell and welcome turning 40. Since then, she has turned cold water therapy into a ritual that can help people share their grief, release their emotions, and find stillness within.
We’ve assembled four scientifically-backed health and mental wellness benefits of cold plunging as well as some tips on how to turn this practice into your own self care ritual. We’re also sharing some of our favourite cold plungers out there to inspire you!
Disclaimer: While cold plunging comes with many benefits, a gentle reminder to approach with caution if you have pre-existing health issues, including high blood pressure, asthma, or a heart condition.
- Elevate mood: A cool dip can stimulate dopamine and endorphin, which are happy hormones that help improve mood, combat stress, and relieve pain. A 2020 study found that 61 people who took a 10-week swimming course in cold seawater experienced significantly greater improvements in mood than 22 of their friends and family members who watched them from shore.
- Boost energy: Immersing yourself in icy water activates our body’s fight-or-flight response and triggers the release of stress hormones, such as noradrenaline and cortisol, making us feel more energetic and alert.
- Improve immune system: Cold water boosts white blood cell count, which protects your body against potential illnesses. In fact, a scientific study reported that people who take cold showers are 29% less likely to call in sick for work or school.
- Soothe inflammation, swelling, sore muscles: We all know that ice is a great remedy for injuries from bruises to sprains. Cold exposure helps numb pain and promotes muscle recovery by constricting blood vessels, which in turn helps to reduce swelling and inflammation.
From routine to ritual
To elevate the cold plunge from a simple routine to powerful ritual, consider your intention. What would you like this cold plunge to bring or offer you?
First, find your way to a body of cold water — whether it be an ocean, a lake, or a cold bath in the comfort of your own home. Don’t forget to have a towel and warm clothes by your side.
Before you begin, prepare yourself by visualizing how you will enter the water, what you’re carrying with you, and how you want to feel after. Consider finding a stone or natural object nearby that reflects what’s weighing on you.
Rituals are not one-size-fits-all behaviors. What works for someone else may not work for you. Listen to your body and enter the water at your own pace in a way that feels right to you. We don’t recommend spending more than one minute per degree above zero.
Once you’re in the water, take a deep breath in…then out. Throw the object into the water and feel it pulling you in as a way of releasing that heaviness. Be gentle and use this opportunity to check in with your body and your inner self. Remember, this is your time to practice mindfulness and connect with the present moment.
End your ritual by taking a moment to reflect and, most importantly, thanking yourself for that experience.
Together as a community
There is something empowering about being part of a community. Consider cold plunging for a cause with a community of people connecting over meditation, breathwork, cold water exposure, and human connection! Based in Vancouver, Canada, the Cold Plunge Crew is organizing monthly events until the end of 2022 to raise funds to build a home for a family in Mexico.
If you would like more guidance to get set up for a regular self-practice, Toronto-based Jess Anderson, who specializes in combining breath work with hot and cold therapy, offers both one-on-one guided cold plunge and group workshops. Also in Toronto, Othership is a studio that offers a range of guided and group experiences to help you make the most out of your cold plunge and sauna practices.
Over on the east coast, we’ve been inspired by the Ice Mermaids of Maine who echoes our beliefs of being present and avoiding comparison, as she states “my body doesn’t worry about the future or the past, how it looks or whether it is loved. The body just is.”
No matter how you do it, the benefits of cold water exposure can be powerful, offering support from a physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual wellness perspective. The magic, for us, involves coming together as a community to witness each other and share in this powerful experience.
Want to learn more rituals?
Download the Be Ceremonial App to learn about more inspiring rituals. You can choose from dozens of ceremonies that help you acknowledge times of change in your life, drawing from hundreds of secular, universal rituals to create a ceremony unique to you.