"Breathing Exercises, Cold-Water Immersion, and Meditation: Mind–Body Practices Lead to Reduced Stress and Enhanced Well-Being"
As a naturopathic doctor, hydrotherapy, mindfulness, and breathwork have long been part of my personal practice, and I have recommended these exercises to patients over the past 27-plus years.
In a recent study, researchers presented a 10-day online program, which included deep breathing exercises, exposure to cold water, and meditation. At the start of the 10-day program and after its completion, levels of perceived stress, depression symptoms, and mental well-being were assessed. A regression analysis revealed improvements in all three categories, supporting the efficacy of these practices.
Countless studies have demonstrated the potential positive impacts of meditation on a variety of medical conditions, including cardiovascular disease, insomnia, mood disorders, stress management, and improvements in cognition. I recommend meditation at least twice daily, morning to get the day started off on a clear note, and at night to calm the mind and body.
Cold-water immersion is an ancient practice used for centuries to improve mental and physical health, and its effects have been well-documented in the literature. This practice is believed to increase blood flow and reduce inflammation, leading to increased levels of energy, improved concentration, and reduction of stress. I consider myself somewhat of a cold therapy wimp, but even I can attest to the tremendous benefits of cold water therapy. Whether you end your hot shower with at least a fifteen-second blast of cold or you go all in and jump in a near-frozen stream, the natural high that follows is incredible.
On a recent trip to North Idaho, my husband and I visited Heat Praxia, a sauna and cold plunge wellness studio. We spent about an hour bouncing between the 185-degree sauna and the 45-degree cold plunge tubs. During this time we focused on deep, calm, breathing. We spent about ten to fifteen minutes in the sauna, followed by 1 to 3 minutes in the cold plunge (I can't tolerate more than a minute, while my husband can tolerate more than 3 minutes). Side note, our private sauna room also had a wall-mounted red-light therapy box, and that was absolutely awesome as well. The benefits of red-light therapy are thought to include improved wound healing, reduction in fine lines, wrinkles, and age spots, improved rosacea, psoriasis, and eczema, improved hair growth in alopecia, reduction in stretch marks, and improvement in acne.
Finally, breathing exercises are a great way to relax the body and mind. By taking deep breaths through the nose that fill the lungs with oxygenated air, one can reduce stress levels and muscle tension. Look for a near-future blog post on different breathing techniques.
Together, meditation, cold-water immersion, and breathing exercises can be used to reduce stress levels and enhance well-being. While these practices have been around for centuries, modern technology has made them more accessible than ever before.