Depression is more common than we’d like to think and impacts millions globally. 3% of the UK population are experiencing depression in any given week with an additional 8% suffering from a combination of anxiety and depression (Mind).
Not unfamiliar to our own team, Brass Monkey was developed as the option founder Dan, wish he could have found when searching for solutions to his own mental health frustrations.
WHAT CAUSES DEPRESSION?
At its core, depression is a chemical imbalance with many factors that can influence this such as life events, genetics, medication, and medical conditions. It’s characterised by a persistent low mood, fatigue and inflammation in the body. It’s not something you can ‘shake off’ but a condition that takes changing the chemistry of the brain. Cold exposure is just one way you can influence this.
THE DEPRESSED MIND
Although extremely reductionistic, people with clinical depression often have increased levels of monoamine oxidase A (MAO-A), an enzyme that breaks down key neurotransmitters, resulting in very low levels of serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine. Medications for depression impact the mind’s uptake of serotonin and dopamine.
HOW DOES COLD AFFECT THE MIND?
Exposure to extremely cold water incites a vast increase in Norepinephrine production. A consistent 200-300% rise that doesn’t diminish over time. This is a neurotransmitter, often found in very low concentrations in someone with depressive symptoms.
It regulates focus and energy levels which are often compromised with depression. Drugs developed by large pharmaceutical companies aim to target the same response to treat conditions such as depression and ADHD.
HOW CAN I USE COLD EXPOSURE TO REDUCE SYMPTOMS OF DEPRESSION?
We’d always advise starting slow. Cold showers are a great introduction to the cold. However, the research supports full cold immersion with water stripping heat from the body five times quicker than air so an ice bath is the quickest way to see the biggest rise in Norepinephrine.
To see a real and long-term impact, both the research and our own experience show using a combination of breathwork and repeated cold exposure is the best way to see a difference.