Winter Blues? Take A Polar Plunge

Winter Blues? Take A Polar Plunge

In Article, mental health by Tree House Recovery

The changing of the seasons and drop of temperature in favorite swimming spots throughout Oregon is no major shift for locals and lovers of Northwestern adventure. Aside from hot springs, Oregon water is generally cold. Our piece of the Pacific Ocean tends to run from frigid to practically sub-zero anytime of year. Shifting into the winter season just means transitioning into a new domain of chill factor and a thicker wetsuit.

Winter and colder waters can be a deterrent for many adventurers, but for Portlandians and Oregonians alike, wintertime is simply another playground in Pacific Northwest adventure-living. Those who choose to take a polar plunge during the winter months are providing themselves more benefit than the thrill of an icy adventure. In fact, swimming in cold water can help aid in the reduction of depression symptoms, which tends to be a difficult challenge for many people in  Oregon during the darker, cloudier winter 

Spending time in water, near water, on the water, or even looking at pictures of water has been scientifically proven to improve well being in a number of ways. Swimming in cold water, specifically, may have scientific merit as well. Big Think reports on a new study which found that cold-water swimming acted as an “effective treatment” in one specific case, that of a young mother. Though the study is merely a case study and a small sample as a result, the results are worth pondering and exploring personally for men seeking recovery in the Portland area.

British Medical Journal published the report, which detailed the patient’s journey in reducing her depression symptoms and attempting to wean herself of antidepressant medications entirely, which she felt kept her in a “chemical fog”. The patient reduced her medication dosages and began regularly swimming in water that was near 60 degrees- which might considered cozy and luxuriously warm for Oregonians. Yet, after just four months of cold-water swimming and reducing antidepressant dosages, the patient no longer experienced symptoms of depression and was no longer taking any medications.

One explanation for the efficacy of taking a regular polar plunge is stress. Submerging the body and forcing it to work under stressful conditions, like cold water, creates an awareness to stress and an exhaustion of stress response hormones. Meaning, the rest of a day’s stressors pale in comparison to the stress of swimming in cold water. The body and the brain can regulate the sympathetic nervous system differently and, because so much more time is being spent in water, the parasympathetic nervous system, which combats and reverses stress responses, can activate more easily.

Of course, a single case study cannot justify causation and more research is needed. However, the idea is novel and worth exploring with the abundance of cold-water swimming opportunities which exist in Oregon. More components add on to reducing the effects of winter-induced depression, as well. Getting outside, getting active, spending time in nature, spending time in water, and doing something memorable are all proven ways to reduce symptoms of depression.

Tree House Recovery is a men’s treatment program in Portland, Oregon, offering men a unique way to recover. Inspired by the great outdoors of the Pacific Northwest and the philosophies of proven recovery techniques, men create sustainable changes in their life, setting up a life without limitations. Call us today for information: (503) 850-2474