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

The Daily Telegraph - Saturday - - BODY MIND -

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

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