We all think of bathing as a pretty straightforward affair, something you do for personal hygiene or as a self-indulgence. My memories of having baths mostly come from being a child, sitting there with my sister and making beards out of bubbles. Some people hate baths, some people love ‘em.
As well as personal hygiene, the act of bathing is integrated into cultures through religious, ritual and therapeutic practices. In the Ancient World, bathing was often a rich, elaborate affair, used socially as well as privately. Think of the Roman thermae; bath houses which also housed libraries and debate rooms, usually provided for the public by the Emperor.
Buddhist temples feature baths for monks and in Japan, the cultural significance of bathing and bath houses is evident through most mediums of art and literature, all the way through to anime films. Anyone whose seen Spirited Away can attest, can though I’m not sure that sort of bathing experience is what we’re after here.
We connect water to spirituality. Many cultures and religious have ceremonial rites centred around water, such as Christian baptism, mikvah in Judaism or the Arabic term Ghusi. Across religions and cultures, we have a human affinity with water and cleanliness. But bathing in the Western society seems to have lost some of its spiritual connections and respect.
Baths these days have been somewhat synonymous with luxury. We think of candles and face masks, sipping wine and feeling very fancy, but baths don’t have to be elaborate, luxurious and timely affairs. They can be simple, and any bath, whether simple or extravagant, can do wonders, particularly for your mental health.
“I am sure there are things that can’t be cured by a good bath but I can’t think of one.” – Sylvia Plath
Baths and depression
In a study recently conducted in Germany, the researchers found that having a 40-degree bath for thirty minutes was more effective in aiding depression than exercise. For someone who hates exercise, this was very good news to me.
Baths have also shown to be brilliant for reliving stress, anxiety and anger, more so than showers.
So, why is that?
Bathing in warm water has multiple benefits:
- Relieves physical tension
- Relieves muscle ache
- Aids digestions
- Improves Circadian Rhythm
- Reduces cortisol
- Balances serotonin
Almost all of which, and with the regulation of body temperature, help aids a better sleep. And sleep, as we all know, is so important to our mental wellbeing. So hopping in a nice hot bath every day to soothe and relax seems a pretty great alternative to a jog, if you ask me. Especially if bubble beards are involved.
Make the most
To get the most of out your daily soak and float, try adding some other elements to the bath.
- Epsom salts: Not only for athletic use, Epsom salts relax stiff muscles and loosen points. Very popular amongst arthritis sufferers.
- Green Tea: Might seem odd, but green tea soothes muscles, softens skin and is loaded with antioxidants. Good for your inside and out. Pop your tea bags in the bath, let it brew for around 15 minutes and fish ‘em out again.
- Music: Or meditation sounds. Something that calms and soothes, takes you to some other place, or just that playlist you have that always makes you feel better. Classical music, nature sounds or even Tibetan bowl singing.
- Avoid being on your phone: Other than the fear of dropping it in, being on your phone in the bath, particularly at night, exposes you to higher blue light levels. Also, the exposure to social media could make you even more stressed, so avoid the phone and the emails or twitter threads and opt for a book, magazine, or simply pop some cucumber slices over your eyes like they do in the movies and lay back. If, like me, doing ridiculous online quizzes does chill you out, at least protect your eyes with some blue light blocking glasses.
Ever popular essential oils can be easily added to your bath water for some added relaxation or skin care. Here are a few bath-time favourites to add a few drops of.
- Ylang Ylang
“You can change the world with a hot bath, if you sink into it from a place of knowing that you are worth profound care, even when you’re dirty and rattled.” – Anne Lamott