Wellness on tap: how tub therapy can beat the blues
There are few pleasures to rival the exquisite stillness of a hot bath, says Suzanne Duckett
Idon’t need any convincing that taking a hot bath is the ultimate, most accessible and affordable mood booster. But in case you do, a recent study in Germany has found that a hot bath can not only lift your spirits but also alleviate depression.
I’ve been using tub therapy for as long as I can remember. The ritual is addictive: the sound and sight of the tap gushing with hot, steamy water; the smell of essential oils; flickering candles; the “do not disturb” physical and symbolic effect of that closed bathroom door and the feeling of stepping in and submerging into what feels like liquid love.
But 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 depression 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 depression are complicated, of course, and incredibly individual (and this study is small), but experts believe that a disrupted circa- dian rhythm could be a common factor – in people with depression, the body may not be regulating its temperature properly. 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.
I’m not suggesting that people with depression should throw away their anti-depressants or forgo seeing their GP or specialist, but it’s incredibly comforting to know that there is also a natural, fast-acting, safe and easily accessible method that could help ease suffering.
You don’t need to be an wealthy spa junkie to reap the benefits. There are no fancy gadgets, kit or courses to buy; there is no extortionate membership to pay for or huge time commitment. And there are few pleasures to rival the innate idleness and the exquisite stillness of a hot bath. While the wellness world bombards us with the latest treatments and gimmicks, healing and revitalising baths have stood the test of time.
Which is exactly why I wrote Bathe, a book that explores the many types of bathing from around the world and how the act of bathing helps us switch off from the hyperactivity of modern life and makes us feel happier. Bathing is democratic, innate wellness, on tap.
Bathe by Suzanne Duckett (Lagom, £16.99) is out now; visit lovetobathe. co.uk for more of Suzanne’s recommendations
Muds, along with clays and peats, are rich in magnesium, potassium and sodium. Their gentle pulling action also shrinks pores, exfoliates and detoxifies.
Hungarymud (£20, victoriahealth. com) stimulates blood flow, flushes out toxins and draws in minerals. It can be sprinkled into the bath and also mixed with water and worn as a brightening, tightening face and body mask.
WELLNESS ON TAP Candles and mood lighting can enhance your bath time