When I was younger, I used to regularly turn my shower from hot to cold back and forth. It was something a doctor had recommended to stimulate my hypothalamus before I was diagnosed with Hashimoto's when he told ‘ME wasn’t a real condition’ and that I was ‘just’ suffering from depression (as if, even if that had been true, ‘it wasn’t a big deal’)*.
Weirdly, as much as I hated those cold showers, I definitely did feel like they benefitted my energy levels, albeit temporarily, and they quickly became apart of my daily routine to help me manage to get to college each day.
Fast forward 15 years and I’ve stopped doing it.
I don’t know when or why, maybe it was after having children, but somewhere along the way the routine got broken and I didn’t keep it up.
Then someone recommended ‘Goop Lab’ on Netflix. I’ve heard of Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop brand before, but never really looked into it - most of the people I heard talk about it were pretty dismissive and said it was pretty ‘out there’ but then, I guess, some of those people think using essential oils to alter your mood or ingesting them is pretty ‘out there’ too.
The first episode intrigued me because it was about taking psychedelic drugs to help with trauma therapy. Fascinating, not something I’m into, but I'm always interested in learning about different approaches to therapy.
I haven’t watched the whole series, and I definitely wasn’t enamoured with some of it, but it was entertaining, Gwyneth and team come across as endearing and vulnerable, and it raised some interesting questions. (spoiler: don’t watch episode 3 unless you are super comfortable with looking at VERY intimate female body parts!).
The second episode was the one that really hooked me in though.
This is a big deal for those with autoimmune diseases, panic disorders, or all kinds of chronic illness.
He talks about using a breathing method (which, from what I can tell, is similar to the ‘breathing up’ technique that many free-divers use), cold water therapy and mindfulness. So I started to do a bit more research. Unlike the psychedelic mushrooms or the ‘vampire facials,’ this was something I was willing to try. After all, it showed promise in a clinical trial for patients with axial spondyloarthritis and it wasn't going to do any harm to try it.
In the goop lab show, one of the the women sees a significant reduction in her chronic anxiety symptoms and everyone seemed to feel that it had been beneficial to them overall - even if they did have to do yoga in the snow!
The first time I tried it, I could hold my breath a grand total of 8 seconds (at this time of year, my asthma is a little more active), but in just one round I nearly doubled that and by the third day of doing three rounds each morning, I could hold my breath for over 90 seconds at a time!
I’ve also started his 20 day ‘cold shower’ challenge, which thankfully only asks me to turn the shower cold at the end of my routine for 15 seconds at a time for the first week. It's not pleasant, but I do enjoy recording it in the app and getting a little sticker each day though - nothing like a little positive reinforcement!
I have to say, I feel good. It also helps to have a good way to start the day with some breathing and mindfulness, it doesn't take long, and because it requires active concentration I don't accidentally fall asleep!
Is it making much difference to my overall health?
Far too early to say, but it’s increasing my lung capacity, which is definitely a good thing, and I have found as he suggests in the voice guidance, that I am capable of consciously controlling my heart rate if I focus on it, even in the stress of cold water (and believe me, it’s a stress).
I like to lie on the floor with my diffuser on (wild orange and peppermint in the mornings to wake me up well) and enjoy some more intensive aromatherapy whilst I’m breathing ‘fully in’ alongside the voice guidance.
Let me know if you decide to try it. Community is always a great way to help make changes to your lifestyle.
*If you are suffering with ‘just’ depression, please know that my heart goes out to you. It’s a horrible and too often life-threatening condition that should be taken more seriously in my opinion.
If you need help or hope, please do reach out to me. I’d love to help you with your journey to living the best quality of life possible.