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Health-giving benefit of a cold bath

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January is the most depressing month of the year, we are told. The mental health charity Mind says that up to a third of Britain’s population suffers from seasonal affective disorder in January. And apparently it is the most popular (if that is the right word) month in which to initiate a divorce.

What with the dreary weather, post-Christmas gloom, stuffy workplaces and new year resolutions that fail like global economic policies, we need to get out more. We may not all be hearty types, enjoying cold showers or camping on the tops of mountains in winter, but most of us would agree that fresh air and exercise make an excellent form of therapy.

Many people find comfort, peace and contentment in a lovely landscape. This was never more so than in the late 18th century when the Picturesque Movement came into fashion. The aim of the movement was to manipulate nature for beauty’s sake. New ideas in landscape were implemented.

At the same time, romantic battlements were added to ordinary houses. Rustic grottoes, gothic ruins, fake castles and follies appeared in the countryside. In Georgian Britain it became fashionable to place plunge pools in the landscape. Sometimes natural pools formed by the pressure of water from waterfalls were incorporated into the design.

The idea was for the jaded health-seeker to wander through a beautifully landscaped area to arrive at a pool filled with pure cold spring water. Often there would be a panoramic view from the pool to enhance the feeling of calm well-being.

Cold water bathing fell out of fashion in the early 20th century. Swimming pools took the place of outdoor plunge pools. We began to favour comfortable health spas and infinity pools on tropical islands instead.

Recently the idea of swimming in the wild has gained in popularity again. Several books extolling its benefits have appeared. Doubtless the improving quality of the water in our rivers and lakes has helped as well.

Would I join you? In January? Pigs might fly!

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From: Beyond pharmacy blog

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