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As unpleasant as it may sound, cold exposure as you start your day activates the sympathetic nervous system and stimulates the synaptic release of excitatory neurostransmitters in the brain. This instantly boosts cognitive performance in the morning when most people struggle to focus in mind and body.
Mood, Memory, Anti-Depressive Effect
Our skin contains an extremely high density of cold receptors and a cold shower stimulates these receptors to essentially overwhelm the brain with electrical impulses, which may account for the analgesic and anti-depressive effects described in varying studies on cold hydrotherapy.
Neural Impulses/second vs Temperature
Lowering the temperature of the brain has been shown to have neuroprotective and therapeutic effects. It may also reduce central nervous system inflammation, which is an established contributor to depression.
In a 2008 podcast Neuroscientist Dr. Nikolai Shevchuk explained that immersion in cold water, such as a cold shower, has an immediate mood-lifting effect on the centers of the brain involved in the regulation of emotions. Research in this area links these brain areas to depression.
Another study conducted on winter swimmer shows significant decreases in tension and fatigue, as well as an improvement in mood and memory.
Cold-water bathing also has been linked to decreases in stress hormones, which may also help the balance of the neurotransmitter serotonin.
More Oxygen and Nutrients Make it to the Brain
When you are exposed to cold water, your peripheral blood vessels constrict, redirecting blood flow to the deeper and larger blood vessels. This can reduce inflammation by aiding in the removal of waste from the periphery and increase the rate of deoxygenated blood return to the heart, whichwill allow freshly oxygenated blood to cycle throughout the body including the brain.
The next time you have an important event in the morning or for other reasons have to be alert immediately, try a cold shower or other immersion in cold water and see the benefits it can bring.