Increased mental resilience

Increased mental resilience

Longing for simpler times is a common sentiment in modern day western cultures, but while achieving simplicity may be a futile dream for most people, cold water immersion offers an alternative solution to feelings of burnout and overwhelm: increasing mental resilience. In other words – we cannot control the world around us to reduce the stressors life presents, but we CAN enhance our capacity to cope with those stressors (13), so they aren’t as emotionally consuming and mentally taxing (13)(14). Cold water immersion requires varying degrees of self-discipline to undertake voluntarily, and extensive research has highlighted the profoundly positive effects of self-discipline on mental resilience. Consciously overriding the reflex to get out of a “stressful state” (eg. being submerged in an ice bath) engages what is referred to as “top-down control”. This involves the pre-frontal cortex controlling deep brain centres that regulate reflexive states. Importantly, the kind of stress experienced by the body during deliberate cold exposure is a POSTIVE stress (eustress), which increases the overall ability to cope with detrimental stress (distress) (15)(16).

13. Aschbacher K, O’Donovan A, Wolkowitz OM, Dhabhar FS, Su Y, Epel E. Good stress, bad stress and oxidative stress: Insights from anticipatory cortisol reactivity. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2013;38(9):1698-1708. doi:

14. Huttunen P, Rintamäki H, Hirvonen J. Effect of regular winter swimming on the activity of the sympathoadrenal system before and after a single cold water immersion. International Journal of Circumpolar Health. 2001;60(3):400-406. Accessed November 20, 2023.

15. Lubkowska A, Dołęgowska B, Szyguła Z, et al. Winter-swimming as a building-up body resistance factor inducing adaptive changes in the oxidant/antioxidant status. Scandinavian Journal of Clinical and Laboratory Investigation. 2013;73(4):315-325. doi:

16. Huberman A. Dr. Susanna Søberg: How to Use Cold & Heat Exposure to Improve Your Health | Huberman Lab Podcast. Published May 15, 2022.