How I recovered from depression

A cold shower doesn’t sound too appealing to the average person and it certainly didn’t to me a few months ago when I lived in a freezing tenement flat in Glasgow. Now however, I can’t get enough of the cold.  So what’s changed since then?

Photo by Zane Lee on Unsplash

Depression. Anxiety. The pandemic and the start of third year uni were the tipping point for me and I had to move back home to Aberdeenshire to be looked after by my parents.

Now, about six months on, I feel the best I’ve ever felt and it’s down to a combination of medication, therapy, exercise, and having great support from my friends and family.  But there has been one other thing that has helped me through it and that's what I’d like to talk about today.

I first came across Wim Hof on YouTube.  He’s an affably eccentric Dutchman who has climbed Everest barefoot but also suffered a lot of emotional trauma in the past when his wife took her own life a couple of decades ago.  Now he preaches breathing exercises and exposure to cold as a way to improve your physical and mental health.

This has led me on a journey of self-discovery where I now regularly go for a dip in the river Dee or the waterfall at Dess as well as having cold showers every day.

Above, I was wearing a wetsuit hood and helmet since the cold water straight to the head can make you pretty dizzy as Alex found out. Cameron and Alex are below, we all stayed submerged for about five minutes and felt as if we could've gone longer but we got out as it's important not to overdo it.

The cold has profoundly altered my sense of self; I used to believe I was not capable of doing anything remotely difficult and that I would always fail at the first hurdle I encountered but now however I do something difficult on a daily basis.

This has given me the confidence to get back on track with my studies and has allowed me to explore my spirituality as it's given me a much deeper connection with nature and my own body.

I have gone in the water a few times with my friends and it leaves us all feeling exhilarated and powerful.  The experience has even strengthened the bond we share as we all endured the same hardship of the cold together.

Me doing my best impression of Smeagol at the Burn o' Vat

Cold water certainly isn’t a cure-all for anxiety and depression, but it can help alleviate some of the symptoms in conjunction with medication and therapy.
Hopefully one day soon we will be able to set up a public dip in the river on Piliana and we can share this wonderful and exhilarating experience together.

If you have any medical conditions, especially heart problems, please speak to a doctor before attempting any exposure to cold water.
Take it slow, start off with a small dose of cold after your regular shower and then build up from there.  It took me months before I started going out into nature.

Initially I could only do very short bursts in a cold shower and found it difficult but after a couple of weeks you will find that it gets easier and easier as your body gets used to it.  For more, check out Wim Hof on YouTube or his website.

Here's me just showing off, I have pretty weak legs due to an autoimmune condition but I try to strengthen my upper body to allow me to do things like this