Skip to Content

Do Cold Showers Help Anxiety? (What The Science Says)

One of the best habits that I started in 2019 was taking Cold Showers daily.

Like pretty much any habit that’s worthwhile, it was really hard at the start, but the end result was so worth it.

Thanks to this habit, my skin is much clearer, my confidence is a lot higher and I’m sleeping a lot, lot better.

Now, thinking back to when I was a low-esteem, self-conscious teen, my skin was terrible, my confidence was lower than whale poop and my sleeping pattern was all over the place.

Which makes me think – If I started taking cold showers back in my teen days, would I have gotten over that anxious period any faster?

Well until I find a time machine, I guess I’ll never really know.

But what I can do is explore the relationship between cold showers and anxiety based on scientific research.

Which is exactly what I did.

Just for you.

That’s right, below you’ll find a summary of the science surrounding cold showers and anxiety, with some of my thoughts and opinions added in.

Reasons Why Cold Showers May Help Anxiety

1. Cold water exposure reduces stress

In the world of mental health, anxiety and stress are 2 rotten peas in the same pod.

In other words, they go hand in hand together.

When you’re anxious? Your stress levels rise.

And vice versa.

So, a fairly simple way to improve your anxiety is to become less stressed.

Now look… I get it.

Becoming less stressed isn’t as easy as it sounds, but research has shown that cold water exposure can help.

For example, this study on 12 males showed that stress markers in their saliva were lower 30 minutes after cold water exposure.

2. Cold Showers help with acne

I appreciate this probably won’t apply to many of you, but for those of you who do suffer from Acne, this section’s for you.

I know first-hand just how much anxiety can be brought upon by Acne.

From strangers in the street staring at you, to looking in the mirror in disgust, there is no escape.

It’s not one of those things you can forget about and live your life as normal either, as if you can’t see it, you can definitely feel it.   

Well if you’re unfortunate enough to suffer from Acne, then I bring you good news.

Cold Showers are awesome for acne for so many different reasons.

For example, they tighten your pores which helps prevent them from getting clogged, and unlike hot showers, they leave your skin hydrated too.

3. Exposure to cold activates the sympathetic nervous system

Many leading scientists are aware that cold exposure activates the sympathetic nervous system, leading to an increase of beta-endorphin and noradrenaline in the blood.

Beta-endorphin, a “feel good” chemical, has been shown to inhibit anxious behaviour in animal studies.

And due to the large amounts of cold receptors in the skin, a cold shower sends a tonne of electrical impulses from your peripheral nerve endings to the brain, which may have anti-anxiety effects.

4. Cold Showers boost confidence

People like to refer to alcohol as “liquid confidence” but I say screw that…

Cold showers are the real liquid confidence.

Although I originally thought this may just be my mind playing tricks on me, it turns out there’s an explanation for it.

Nikolai Shevchuk, a Molecular biologist, claims that a lot of the mood-lifting effects of cold showers are due to the stimulation of the dopamine pathway.

(Dopamine is a powerful neurotransmitter that makes us feel good when achieving goals, winning a bet or getting a pay rise.)

So, by taking a cold shower, your Dopamine levels will rise making you feel a sense of accomplishment.

This will boost your self-esteem which will do wonders for your anxiety.

5. Cold Showers help improve sleep

Good quality sleep is one of the most underrated weapons in the war against mental health demons.

First and foremost, a good night’s sleep will make you feel good about yourself in general.

You’ll have more energy, focus and happiness.

And when you feel this way, it’s so much easier to get a good night’s sleep.

This has a snowball effect where a good night’s sleep will make you feel great, which will help you sleep even better the next day, which will make you feel even better, and so on.

But please be warned however that the opposite it also true.

When you neglect your sleep, you’ll feel like crap the next day, which will make it even harder to get a deep sleep, making you feel like an anxious mess the next day, and so on.

Well it turns out that cold showers are great for sleep, as they lower your Cortisol levels.

(Cortisol levels are supposed to be low in the evening, but due to the lifestyles we live, this isn’t the case for many.)

6. Cold Showers help you face fear

For many people, anxiety is caused by fear of the unknown.

Presentation anxiety? That’s down to not knowing how the audience will react.

Social anxiety? That’s down to not knowing how the conversation will go.

Please don’t blame yourself for this though. It’s how us as a species are wired.

You see, humans are a very logical species meaning we like to know the answer of every outcome, but the reality of life means we often won’t find the outcome until we take action.

So how do I conquer my fear of the unknown? I hear you ask.

Well from my experience, the best way is to tackle fear head on and realising the outcome isn’t that bad.

Now look, I’m not saying cold showers are as scary as presenting in front of 200 people (but they are pretty damn scary).

But doing something even as small as a cold shower will help re-wire your brain to learn that the outcome isn’t as bad as you perceive it to be.


Anxiety sucks.

There’s no doubt about that.

But hopefully by reading this article, you now have another weapon in your arsenal that you can try to defeat your mental health demons.

Am I saying that cold showers will help your anxiety for certain?

Absolutely not.

But what I am saying is please give them a try.

The science is there to back them up, and with pretty much no side effects (apart from 30 seconds of discomfort), what is there to lose?

Well that’s all for today folks.

I’d appreciate it if you share your thoughts in the comments below 🙂

See you soon.


You might also find these articles interesting…