ilapothecary - Beat the Blues
It's 'Blue Monday' today, apparently the most depressing day of the year, originally coined in 2004 by psychologist Cliff Arnall for travel firm Sky Travel, who then used the phrase in a press release to promote their winter deals. It took off!
PR spin or not, Arnall calculated that the third Monday in January was when the financial pressure of the Christmas just passed comes to roost, the weather is at its most bleak, and we don't feel at our most vibrant. What's the antidote? A hot bath and bed in my book (literally! My book Bathe!)
I’ve been using tub therapy for as long as I can remember (hence writing a book just on bathing). The ritual is addictive: the sound and sight of the tap gushing with hot, steamy water; the smell of essential oils; flickering candles; the “do not disturb” physical and symbolic effect of that closed bathroom door and the feeling of stepping in and submerging into what feels like liquid love.
But there are medical and physiological benefits, too. A recent study at the University of Freiburg tested 45 people with moderate to severe depression and found that a 105F (40C) bath, twice a week for 30 minutes, followed by wrapping in blankets with hot water bottles for a further 20 minutes, reaped more benefit than two bouts of moderate exercise (running, dancing or swimming for 40-45 minutes), improving symptoms of depression from severe to moderate, or moderate to mild. Moreover, 13 out of 23 people dropped out of the exercise group but only two out of 22 refused to complete the hot bath treatments.
The causes of depression are complicated, of course, and incredibly individual (and this study is small), but experts believe that a disrupted circadian rhythm could be a common factor – in people with depression, the body may not be regulating its temperature properly. In the study, immersion in hot bathwater raised participants’ body temperature by about 3.5F (2C) and experts suggest this works to restore the body’s natural temperature rhythm over the course of a day. I’m not suggesting that people with depression should throw away their anti-depressants or forgo seeing their GP or specialist, but it’s incredibly comforting to know that there is also a natural, fast-acting, safe and easily accessible method that could help ease suffering.
Perfect bath Prep…
Have your accoutrements at the ready. Reading material, candle, towel and pyjamas. For me there’s usually a book involved, a paperback with a towel nearby to dry wet page-turning fingers and grab the mug or wine glass. Other times, when feeling fraught I just lie there staring at my toes pressed up against the end of the bath, occasionally glancing at the dancing candle to give my chattering mind something to follow and focus on. Choose your bath additive carefully – salts, muds or oils – according to mood and need.
Ilapothecary Magnesium & Amethyst Deep Relax Bath Soak. A staying-in Friday or Saturday night treat
In ancient times, muds were considered a cure for almost any ailment and, along with clays and peats, are rich in magnesium, potassium and sodium. Their gentle pulling action also shrinks pores, exfoliates and detoxifies (one reason why mud is also popular for masks). Hungarymud, stimulates blood flow, flushes out toxins and draws in minerals. It can be sprinkled into the bath and also mixed with water and worn as a brightening, tightening face and body mask.