Suggested reading: Cold water plunges are trendy. Can they really reduce anxiety and depression?

by Chloe Williams

In a TikTok video from January, self-help author Mel Robbins held a hammer in 12-degree weather in her backyard in Vermont. “We’re about to do the cold plunge,” she said to the camera, after breaking through a layer of ice on the surface of a barrel to expose the water below. She then climbed into the barrel and, taking a deep breath, sank into the water chest deep.

Ms. Robbins took up the Wim Hof method, which pairs cold exposure with breathing and meditation, to help manage anxiety and stress. The frigid water brings on what feels like a panic attack at first, she said in a recent interview. But eventually, her body relaxes and her mind quiets. “The water is still cold but your anxiety response is gone,” she said.

Cold water immersion has garnered a lot of attention lately, especially for its supposed mental health benefits. Wim Hof, an extreme athlete and fitness guru who developed the technique, was featured in a recent documentary by the musician and influencer Jacob Sartorius. His regimen was also the subject of an episode of Netflix’s “The Goop Lab,” released last year. … (continue at The New York Times)

Published by Massimo

Massimo is the K.D. Irani Professor of Philosophy at the City College of New York. He blogs at and He is the author of How to Be a Stoic: Using Ancient Philosophy to Live a Modern Life.

4 thoughts on “Suggested reading: Cold water plunges are trendy. Can they really reduce anxiety and depression?

  1. I think it is all about hardiness. This is that vital but elusive component of the character that is developed by repeated exposure to testing events. We cannot treat the mind directly but by testing the body with repeated stress, we use the body as a proxy and gateway to the mind.

    From these stressful exposures we become
    1) accustomed to trials
    2) we develop coping mechanisms
    3) we gain confidence in our ability to cope.
    Our body of course also adjusts to the stress and this adjustment multiplies our confidence. Ultimately it is all about confidence. A confident mind overcomes challenges simply because it believes it can. A hardy mind knows that it will experience failure but is also confident that recovery is possible.

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  2. But I do have what I think is an important objection. We, as a society, have become fixated on quick and easy fixes for our problems. The very idea of sustained, long term, extreme effort has become foreign to our nature. A cold plunge is an example of the quick fix I am objecting to. It is over in a few minutes and we can return to our comfortably slothful mode of living. Far more effective is something more testing, such as, at a minimum, running a half marathon on a hilly course. Even better, would be to run a full marathon. The key thing here is that in order to run the marathon you must go through a months long program of preparation. This sustained mental and physical effort is what really does the job.

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