Have you always been a shower-type person? Someone who loves to get in and out of the water quickly so you can get on with your day at top speed? Well, maybe you would consider taking a hot bath as the ultimate, accessible and affordable mood booster. A recent study in Germany has found that a hot bath can not only lift your sprits but also alleviate stress and anxiety. Sounds like it makes sense?
The ritual of a good soak is addictive and arguably essential. You can get lost in the sound of the tap flowing with hot water, the steam rising with the smell of essential oils; flickering candles and the anticipation of being enveloped in liquid love. The physical and symbolic effect of the ritual is so important for relieving stress and strains of everyday life, that the team at Organa has been converted.
There are medical and physiological benefits, too. A new study at the University of Freiburg tested 45 people with moderate to severe depression and found that a 105F (40C) bath, twice a week for 30 minutes, followed by wrapping in blankets with hot water bottles for a further 20 minutes, reaped more benefit than two bouts of moderate exercise (running, dancing or swimming for 40-45 minutes), improving symptoms of stress from severe to moderate, or moderate to mild. Moreover, 13 out of 23 people dropped out of the exercise group but only two out of 22 refused to complete the hot bath treatments.
The causes of stress are complicated, of course, and incredibly individual (and this study is small), but experts believe that a disrupted circadian rhythm could be a common factor. In the study, immersion in hot bathwater raised participants’ body temperature by about 3.5F (2C) and experts suggest this works to restore the body’s natural temperature rhythm over the course of a day.
You don’t need to be a spa junkie to reap the benefits. There are no fancy gadgets, extortionate memberships to pay for or huge time commitments. While the wellness world bombards us with the latest treatments and gimmicks, healing and revitalising baths have stood the test of time.
So what goes in your tub? Here are a few tips:
Beneficial bathing salts calm the nervous system and boost our bodies from the inside out. In their natural form, they can contain many minerals, including magnesium, potassium, sodium and calcium. During a bath, warm water opens pores, allowing these nutrients to be absorbed and drawing out pollution, impurities, toxins and dirt.
Attractive young woman standing in the bathroom In ancient times, muds were considered a cure for almost any ailment and, along with clays and peats, are rich in magnesium, potassium and sodium. Their gentle pulling action also shrinks pores, exfoliates and detoxifies (one reason why mud is also popular for masks).
A bath offers essential oils a double route into the body – via steam inhalation and skin absorption – but always use pure essential oils. Benefits include immunity support, treating respiratory issues and soothing inflammation to promoting relaxation and inducing sleep.
Types of oil
Grapefruit oil has a fresh and zesty smell that will awaken your senses and draw out impurities, leaving you feeling physically lighter.
Orange essential oil is also a wonderful mood lifter.
Juniper is known for its antiseptic and soothing properties, Marjoram oil helps to relieve muscle cramps and tension, while Arnica reduces pain and inflammation.
Lavender is the scent of choice for sleep. Look out for French high-altitude lavender oil because it contains higher natural linalyl acetate (ester) levels, so its properties are enhanced. Cedarwood is also known for its comforting, grounding and warm scent. This oil supports the healthy function of the pineal gland, which releases melotonin, the body’s natural sleep hormone.
It’s hard to find a more romantic oil than Rose. It is calming, reduces anxiety and is traditionally used as an aphrodisiac because it is said to stir desire and enhance self-esteem and confidence. Men might like to use Clary Sage oil instead because it has a balmy and earthy scent but is also both deeply relaxing and a powerful aphrodisiac.
- Add five drops of pure essential oil to a run bath (don’t add oils to running water as they are volatile and will vanish into the steam) and soak for 20 minutes.
- Zesty essential oils, such as grapefruit, will awaken your senses; add 8-10 drops of almond oil, run a warm bath and a 10- to 15-minute soak will feel like you’ve pressed reset.
- Get the temperature right: water should be 36-38 C and room temperature 25-30C. If necessary, heat the room beforehand so there isn’t an excessive temperature difference when you get out.
- Bathe for 15-20 minutes to let the ingredients do their magic and then slather the priciest body oil you can afford on to damp skin.