Coldwater dips, winter bathing, Viking baths - the ritual has many names - and for me, it is the best start of the new year. It is a mental clean out of the old.
I picked up this new element in my life only a few years back; a Nordic practice of dipping yourself into the ice-cold waters in wintertime. Yes, really! Sounds crazy, I know. In the Nordics, many people actively seek out the cold wintertime swimming in frigid water. The dipping is often combined with sauna. (I have a whole story of Finland and saunas coming up).
The freshest new beginning possible
In my case, I became a member of a much-coveted local winter bathing club. The one with the Christmas tree shown below.
But why on earth would one do that??
First of all; It merely makes me feel soooo good. UK's TV BBC recently referred to this as "The Danish trick to "shock" your body into happiness."
It's hard to explain what it does for me, but let me start by describing my procedure: I always take my safety precautions when winter bathing. First of all, I never go alone and I don't go when it's too windy.
Arriving at the beautiful aesthetic and simple bathing facilities located on the sea close to my home, I change into only a towel. After having changed, I calmly and convincingly take the five steps and immerse myself in the water. It is a real shocker. At this time of year, the seawater temperature is around 40 degrees Fahrenheit. I stay for maybe 30 seconds, taking a few swim strokes, and I get back up, hastily. Then directly into the sauna. Complete heaven. The sauna is sheer tranquility and warmth. Five minutes or so in the sauna, and then another dip. Now my body is so warm from the sauna, and the water feels a little bit like a relief. Then repeat sauna plus the third and final dip. At this point, it feels like warmth has accumulated, partly from the blood rushing through my veins from the cold dips, combined with the sauna heat, that the cold water is pleasant and not something you have to endure.
Then I change and go back home feeling like a new and improved version of myself.
It may be hard to believe before you have even tried it, but the cold shiver gives you tremendous well-being. Many even get "high" from it, just as runners can get runner's high. The explanation is that your brain responds to the cold by releasing a lot of neurotransmitters and hormones: adrenaline, adrenal cortex, serotonin, and endorphins. They have a pain-relieving and de-stressing effect, give you well-being, and lift your spirits. Even short dips are enough. It takes just 20-30 seconds in the cold water to achieve an effect for several hours.
It's a whole-body-and-mind experience. It is also believed to do health wonders, and there's some science suggesting that it might be so. Moreover, for me, the aesthetic dimension of the natural elements, the sea, the sky, the wood in the sauna, the heat and the cold is so precious; it is nature and simplicity.
And while my winter baths are recurring weekly, especially the dip at new years is for me a must: My cold water dip becomes a cleansing of the soul, a goodbye to the old year, and a 'bring it on – I'm ready' to the new year. A new beginning…
A happy new year and best wishes!
How to cold water dip safely
• If you have a history of heart disease or suffer from asthma, talk to your GP before you go.
• Practice the cold dip with other people.
• Choose a safe site and make sure you know how to exit the water before you get in.
• Ease yourself in slowly where you can touch the bottom. At first, it'll be hard to control your breathing. Try and take a deep breath.
• The Danish trick to "shock" your body into happiness ( BBC.com – Worklife) Story by By Mary Holland 2nd March 2020