Ice Bath Psychology

Updated: Apr 12

"Everything you want is on the other side of fear." - Jack Canfield.

Two women sitting on couch, in meditative preparation for the ice bath, measuring brain waves with the Muse headset.
Meditative preparation for the ice bath, measuring brain waves with the Muse headset.

Although the metabolic benefits of ice baths begin at water temperatures in the low 50's Fahrenheit, the psychological benefits sometimes don't emerge until the water gets colder.

Morozko Forge CEO Thomas P Seager, PhD says "I want the water to be cold enough to scare me. Otherwise, I'm not getting the stress inoculation benefit."

For him, that doesn't happen at temperatures greater than 35F, so he has to keep his Forge that cold.

In Stress vs Cold, we wrote about some of the psychological benefits of deliberate cold exposure and how changing the story you tell yourself about your stress can extend your life. That was when we discovered that a freezing cold ice bath calms brain wave data better than meditation.

At least, for the people we tested.

To discover whether the same benefits were available to someone without experience in ice bath meditation, we invited a successful personal trainer who was new to deliberate cold exposure to try our before/after brainwave protocol.

She began by meditating indoors, warm and dry, while we measured her brain waves using the Muse headset.

Then, she plunged nearly up to her arm pits in a freezing water ice bath for 4 minutes.

Woman relaxing in ice bath with eyes closed and hands crossed over her chest.
A novice to deliberate cold exposure might get the same mental benefits from ice baths

These were her results. On the left is her brain wave data while warm and dry, and on the right is her brain wave data in the Morozko Forge.

Woman immersed in ice bath, eyes closed and hands folder over her chest.
Notice that the brain is more active when warm and dray (left) than when in the ice bath (right). During whole body immersion in freezing cold water, the brain waves plunge into the most calm state, and remain there for the duration of the cold exposure.

Her results ar