Baths Promote Health and Serenity, and are Perfect for Social Distancing
About a year and a half ago, I bought myself High Vibrational Beauty: Recipes & Rituals for Radical Self Care by Kerrilynn Pamer and Cindy DiPrima Morisse. It was right between Christmas and New Years and I was feeling really worn out physically, and in a bit of a career funk. The book is full of delights: recipes, ideas for journaling and meditation, with a focus on seeking beauty and enjoyment in wellness.
Of everything I read, the thing that stuck with me the most was the seasonal bathing rituals. I immediately got hooked on the winter bath: while filling the tub, warm some coconut oil on the stove or microwave. Massage your entire body slowly and thoroughly with the warm oil, from feet to neck. Light a candle or two, throw a few drops of essential oil into the bath, turn on some relaxing music or a meditation podcast, and lower yourself into the warm water. (I only just realized how sexy this sounds. That really wasn’t my intention, but nothing wrong with sensual bath time if that’s your vibe!)
Although there are baths in the book for every season, I honestly loved the winter one so much that I never tried the others. I made baths a part of my regular routine for a while, but eventually fell out of the habit.
This past year, I created an unfortunate work situation for myself which involved working for 24 hours over the course of two days, with only a few hours of sleep between shifts. Needless to say, when this stretch finally ended on Sunday afternoons, I was exhausted. I would get home, feeling too tired to do anything, but too wired and cranky to nap. That’s when I got back into taking baths.
Instead of doing the massage, I pared it down by simply adding a big spoonful of coconut oil to the bath. The oil soaks into your skin and when you get out, there’s no need to put on lotion. I would add some essential oil (my recent favorite has been a blend of lavender, orange, and eucalyptus) and turn on the Meditative Story podcast. The bath soothed my aching muscles and left me relaxed and rejuvenated enough to make it through until bedtime.
If there’s ever been a right time for a soothing bath, it’s during a pandemic.
1. Baths Relieve Stress and Improve Your Mood
Baths are calming and relaxing, a great way to smooth jangled nerves and stress. Many of us are experiencing anxiety right now about the health and safety of our families and health care workers, financial worries, and the general uncertainty of how the world will look in the aftermath of this pandemic.
Personally, there’s also some guilt- that I’m relatively comfortable in the midst of this, that I can’t do more to help those who are suffering. But taking care of yourself means that you’ll have more care, compassion, and energy to give to those around you.
Baths are a luxurious addition to a self-care routine, especially when combined with aromatherapy. One study showed that participants experienced elevated mood and positive outlook for the future in response to daily lavender-scented baths. Various essential oils are purported to have effects on mental and physical well-being, but I think you should just pick a scent you enjoy.
Research suggests that the change in body temperature from a warm bath may release serotonin, the hormone that makes us happy. Baths also help people sleep better, which in turn benefits mood and brain function.
In addition to physiological calming effects, taking a bath is a chance to consciously do something nice for yourself. It’s a section of time set aside to simply be present and enjoy sensations, without any goals.
2. Taking Baths Makes You Healthier
Baths are good for your brain, and they also do nice things for your body.
Obviously social distancing is the most effective protection against Coronavirus. Nevertheless, it’s better to stay as healthy as possible, and nurture your immune and respiratory systems.
Warm baths raise people’s heart rates, increasing oxygen delivery. Another side effect of this is burning calories- in some instances 140 calories over the course of an hour, which is slightly more than you’d burn running a mile. Bathing may also improve the immune system, cold and flu symptoms, and blood pressure levels.
Epsom salts, a bath classic, are great for relieving sore muscles. While stress produces muscle tension, the inverse is also true. Taking time to relax your muscles can protect against a number of stress-related chronic diseases, as well as promoting an overall sense of well-being. For people with chronic pain or taxing workout regimens, taking a bath can be an effective tool for recovery and pain management.
Medicinal baths have been around for centuries, notably in countries with natural hot springs. Remember the oatmeal bath your mom made you take when you had the chicken pox? If you have itchy skin from eczema, a sunburn, or a number of other conditions, an oatmeal bath can sooth, moisturize, and reduce inflammation.
3. Baths are the Perfect Quarantine Activity
Trying to occupy the endless stretch of time before you? Want to do something that feels more worthwhile than bingeing on Netflix, but isn’t actually strenuous? Looking for a way to set the tone for a romantic evening with the person you’ve been stuck with in a two-room apartment for the last 16 days, wearing the same pair of sweatpants? Need an excuse to hide from your family?
Social distancing can be a challenge, but it’s also an opportunity- to slow down, to turn inward, and to pick up projects we’ve put down in the hectic whirlwind of everyday life. It can also be a time to learn new skills or add to a wellness repertoire.
Most importantly, it’s the time when we all need to stay calm and healthy.
What better time than the present to take a bath?