IN 2020, WHO ESTIMATED THAT ABOUT 7.5% OF INDIANS suffered from some mental health issues and this number would soon touch 20% owing to the pandemic. According to WHO, nearly 56 million Indians suffer from depression.
In another survey conducted by GOQii, a smart tech health care platform in 2020, nearly 10000 Indians were surveyed to understand the impact of the lockdown during the corona pandemic. Nearly 43% of respondents said they were suffering from depression.
This is the first part of a series, in which I will painstakingly research and share some scientific non-medicated ways to beat this demon of depression. Let’s begin!
Related Read:- 6 Mind-Blowing Techniques to Beat Stress and Depression.
What was the Study?
In a small but interesting study, a group of researchers from the University of Freiburg, Germany engaged in measuring the impact of hot baths and exercise on people suffering from depression.
They took 45 people, all struggling with moderate or severe depression. The participants were then split into two groups.
The first group was randomly asked to soak in 40-degree Celsius (104-degree F) bath for 30 minutes at a time, while the second group was asked to take part in 40-45 minutes aerobic exercise sessions twice a week.
The interesting part of the study was that the baths were always taken in the afternoon between 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. On the other hand, the exercise regimen consisted of warming up, jogging, stretching, and strengthening.
Exercise is already a proven way to combat depression, but the researchers were more interested in finding the effect of “thermal therapy” on depression.
What was the Result?
Eight weeks later, the researchers tested and measured participants’ moods on a commonly used Hamilton Depression Scale (HAM-D).
They observed that those who took regular baths saw a significant improvement in their depression score, a reduction of six points (from 21 points earlier) as compared to exercise which reduced the depression score by just three points.
So, what was the suggestion?
That regular hot-water baths were a more effective way to treat depression and enhance mood than exercising. According to the authors of the study, exercising took longer for the same effect on mood upliftment than hot-water bathing.
Interesting Read:- Easy Scientific ways to Eliminate Stress.
The Why of the Result?
The question arises as, why bathing is more effective at treating depression than exercising.
Researchers say the biggest reason has to do with our body’s internal clock- the circadian rhythm.
Circadian rhythm affects the functioning of body organs through temperature regulation and thus temperature can be used to tweak our circadian rhythms. Other scientific research has found that the circadian rhythm of people who suffer from depression normally peaks much later in the day as compared to the circadian rhythm of non-depressed people which peaks in the afternoon. This disrupts the natural cycle of the body clock leading to even insomnia.
Just Check This:- What Happen in Sleep.
So, raising the body temperature is a great way to get the clock back on track and improve even the sleep cycle. The role of sleep-in alleviating depression is well known to all.
Also, warm baths help physical tension by dilating blood vessels in the skin and relaxing anxious muscles. It can even lower blood sugar levels. The same reason why experts recommend taking a warm water bath an hour before bed.
“When people incorporate a warm bath into their bedtime routine,” says Rajkumar Dasgupta, an associate professor of sleep and critical care at the University of Southern California, “they affect their circadian rhythm by warming up their core body temperature before it cools down naturally in their sleep.”
Other Relevant Studies.
A number of small studies also support the idea- including one study conducted by researchers at the Society of Biological Psychiatry (SOBP) in Atlanta, 24 patients with severe depression were made to sit around heated coils raising their body temperature to 38.3 degrees Celsius.
After the experiment, when the heat was turned off and the participant’s body cooled down for one hour, researchers observed that nearly 60% responded well to the treatment, while 40% felt less depressed just after a single session.
Another reason is the thought that heat helps the body to relax and ease, making people less prone to the chain of negative thoughts, which amplifies the depression symptoms. Also, in depressed people, the “happiness molecule” serotonin is at low levels.
In research on rats, Christopher Lowry of the University of Colorado, observed that increase in body temperature fires a group of serotonin-releasing neurons in a brain region called the dorsal raphe nucleus.
“Stress levels reduce as hot water increases body temperature, thereby calming the nervous system,” says Veena Graff, an assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, “releasing endorphins such as dopamine and serotonin, and improving circulation.”
In an interesting study by British researchers, participants took either hour-long hot baths or ride a bicycle for an hour. The researchers surprisingly found that taking a long hot bath can actually burn equivalent calories to a 30-minute walk. Yes, even taking bath burned around 140 calories.
So, if you are too tired to go to the gym today? Then take a hot bath!
Interesting Read:- The Power of Meditation on Brain.
The Sauna Experiment.
Now you know the reason why sitting in a sauna heal your mood and makes you feel good.
In fact, the sauna is even good for the heart as in one experiment Takashi Ohori of the University of Toyoma in Japan asked 41 participants with heart conditions to take 15- minute saunas five times a week, using a blanket afterward to maintain the body temperature about 1 degree higher.
After three weeks not only increased the heart’s ability to pump blood and improve their heart function but even increased the amount of exercise they could do.
Hydrotherapy, or water cure or even called aquatic physiotherapy is the use of water to treat various diseases, such as arthritis, rheumatic pain, and other ailments. The theory behind it is to use the unique properties of water in therapeutic applications, both internally and externally, on the body. A sauna is a form of hydrotherapy.
A word of caution: If you are suffering from heart problems, please don’t rush to the nearest sauna spa. This has to be done only under strict medical supervision.
What Does Ayurveda Say?
Now, let’s look at our holistic wisdom from ancient medical science…Ayurveda. In Indian tradition, bathing has always been considered as sacred. In Ayurveda bathing is a therapeutic and healing activity that helps to restore balance to mind, body, and spirit.
As per the 2nd chapter of Ashtanga Hrudaya Sutrasthana, Acharya Vagbhata recommends hot water for the body bath and room temperature water for the head bath.
Agreed, the studies conducted were quite small, and more research needs to be done before hot baths are prescribed for depression, but tell me is there any harm in getting warm and cozy by indulging in a warm bath at home.
Whatever the explanation and science, if taking the plunge in warm water makes us feel good and relaxed then go ahead and try it out.
Soft and silky water bubbles will never hurt you and the best thing- they have no side effects.
Do you have any story or strategy on how to fight depression? If so, do share it in the comments box below!