As part of Stylist’s Kindfulness Project, we are encouraging our readers to be more compassionate – to both themselves and others. Here, we look at how taking a warm bath every day can have a positive effect on your mental health.
In a society that’s becoming increasingly liberated to talk about our mental health, there’s much advice to be shared on how to deal with things like stress, anxiety or depression.
From the power of poetry, listening to groundbreaking podcasts and reconnecting with nature, the strategies for keeping your headspace positive can vary wildly, but according to research there’s one very simple daily ritual that could benefit you even more than some of the most well known stress soothers.
A study by the University of Freiburg in Germany found that a 30 minute soak in a warm bath (40c or higher) every afternoon or evening can dramatically improve a person’s mental wellbeing. The university asked 45 people who struggle with depression to do just that, followed by 20 minutes of relaxing, wrapped in blankets and a hot water bottle, and saw a significant improvement in mood.
The experiment lasted eight weeks, after which all 45 people were given a commonly used depression scale to describe their mental wellbeing, and saw that on average the group had improved by six points.
Exercise is a commonly recommended aid for improving mental wellbeing, with the NHS saying it can be used to treat mild depression because it can “cause chemical changes in the brain, which can help to positively change our mood.”
But interestingly in this study, those who enjoyed a warm bath every day actually scored on the whole three points better in the depression scale, than those who had been asked to do 45 minutes of aerobic exercise a week. This suggests that taking some time-out in the tub, could be a seriously underestimated soother.
Although having some time to relax by yourself, with your phone out of reach, is undoubtedly part of it, the reason that a warm bath is so good for you is actually a lot more scientific than you might think.
Circadian rhythms control the daily flow of every organ in our body, including the dip in concentration we usually feel at 3pm and the way our bodies adapt to heat throughout the day, usually getting colder at night to signal it’s time to drift off to sleep.
People with depression’s circadian rhythm tends to be off-kilter and sometimes lag behind what it should be, making their whole body feel out of sync. But a change in temperature can help this rhythm get stronger, and kick start it back to life, helping to raise the mood of that person.
There are loads of products out there designed to reduce stress and soothe anxiety, so if you want to make the most of a calming bath you could not only pop on a self-care podcast, but try using some of the products below, too.