While we may already be well aware of the mood-boosting benefits of a hot shower, I’d like to take some time to share a bit about the science behind why it works so well. I also want to offer up some solutions to earning that mood-boosting shower as well as some inspiration to get outside when you do it.
Temperature as a Distress Tolerance Skill
Rapidly changing our body temperature can help us relax in a tense moment or help us find more balanced emotions in a time of sadness or poor mood. Temperature is a simple and effective tool to bring our heart rates and blood pressure back to homeostasis, an optimally healthy place for our bodies to operate. This practice is the T in the acronym TIPP, standing for Temperature, Intense Exercise, Practiced Breathing, and Progressive Muscle relaxation. TIPP is a distress tolerance skill taught in Dialectical Behavior Therapy which emphasizes mindfulness and acceptance.
If we’re in a moment of anger, fear, or frustration we can rapidly change our temperature by doing something as simple as holding onto an ice cube. The cold quickly lowers our heart-rate and blood pressure, creating a physical feeling of calm. When we have intense feelings of sadness and depression our heart rates are usually slower. In this instance, we can increase our heart rate with a quick temperature change in the other direction. A hot shower, for instance, can bring us back to homeostasis and help balance our emotions.
Why You Should Sweat Then Shower
You may be jump into a steamy, smell-good, shower right away but we can exponentially increase the benefits of that shower if we work up a sweat first and take our efforts outdoors. So this morning I hit the trails with the motivation of a steamy, smell-good shower as my reward. Motivation is too special to keep to myself so I called my workout buddy, also known as Mom, and invited her to join me.
To earn my quiet time with Shea scented soap and soaked creosote I choose to climb the ridgeline of Beverly Canyon at South Mountain. Mom and I traveled the same trail, but at our own pace. I pushed hard up each hill then floated down the other side, tip toeing from bolder to boulder. There were no heart rate or GPS monitors to indicate my intensity, speed, or distance, because what was most important was how I felt.
My chest swelled in sync with my footsteps. My bellybutton was pulled back toward my spine as my core rolled with the dynamic movement of my body on the trail. My glutes, hamstrings, calves, and quads burned deeply while my skin felt the sizzle of the morning sun. With each step my toes curled and pulled me forward. I felt everything, and it felt good. That’s when I knew I had earned my reward; but I wasn’t home yet. There were still a few more blessings to indulge in before my steamy, smell-good shower.
To cool down we traveled into the canyon, where I took a moment to enjoy the peace and quiet. Mom and I walked back to the trailhead together, just listening to each other’s breath. Finally reaching the trailhead, we spent some time stretching while quail families crisscrossed around us and pecked at the ground. Back home, drenched in sweat, I turned up the music and the hot water to reap my well-earned reward.
Now it’s your turn. What will you do to earn your steamy, smell-good shower? Whatever you do to make it fun and take it outdoors. Is a hot shower something you could do in a moment of sadness, grief or poor mood? Do you have some ideas about how you’d work up a sweat first? If you can’t get outside, try these 15 minute fitness videos to earn your mood-boosting shower.