Q: What is Cold-water dipping?
SMC defines and practices cold-water dipping in accordance with a growing body of academic research. It is non-competitive deliberate cold-water exposure (40-degrees-plus fahrenheit), with other people (never alone), for brief periods of time (up to 30-120 seconds), practiced consistently (up to 11 minutes per week), in shallow water, next to land (where one can stand comfortably with head out of water), with intentions of enhancing overall health and well-being.
At SMC, cold-water dipping does not include swimming, surfing, jumping or diving. Submersing one’s head under water is not necessary to obtain the health benefits of this practice. Cold-water dipping does not involve holding one’s breath, in fact just the opposite – breath is key.
DISCLAIMER: Cold-water dipping is not a substitute for medical treatment and should not be done without consulting your trusted medical and psychological professionals to confirm any health-risks that might indicate you should not practice cold-water dipping. If you have a known heart or blood pressure condition, contact your health provider and reach out to us.
Q: What are the potential benefits of cold-water dipping?
*The following answer is according to our own experiences, anecdotes from fellow-dippers and the science and research done and presented by pioneers in the field including Dr. Susanna Soeburg and Dr. Andrew Huberman
- disease prevention by activating and growing healthy brown fat which creates heat and energy, burning calories for us utilizing our blood sugar and lipids (white fat) – improving metabolism and decreasing insulin resistance.
- decreasing inflammation
- decreasing joint and muscle pain
- release of adrenaline, noradrenaline (and dopamine) contributing to a 250+% increase in mood over baseline.
- consciously activating sympathetic (fight or flight) nervous system AND parasympathetic (rest and relaxation) nervous system: this practice can prepare us for when faced with real-world stressors.
- connecting with nature in an ancient and primal way helping us “shed layers” (conditioning) – remembering where we came from and what we are capable of
- increasing mental resilience by regularly overcoming, breathing into and adapting to “safe discomfort” – strengthening the mind as if it were a muscle at the gym
- presence: the here and now and your breath is all you have and need in the dipping-moment
- less ego-driven behavior, more self-awareness/ acceptance/ confidence which translates into the real world
- sounder sleep
- community: naturally gathering, connecting and bonding instantly with other dippers, smashing isolation
- helping ease anxiety and depression and supporting grief
- empowerment: feeling like you can “take on the world” after an incredible endorphin release (that lasts!)
- joy and fun
- an activity that allows for a group nature, and also a very personal experience
- vocalizing and emoting (screaming/ howling) are natural, therapeutic and acceptable
- new friends
- when done carefully, mindfully and slowly, with support, many people can benefit.
- best to do your own research if you have heart disease or blood pressure issues – always consult with your trusted medical and psychological professional before engaging in a cold-water dipping practice.
Boost Your Biology with Lucas Aoun
Using Deliberate Cold Exposure for Health and Performance
Q: What should I bring to a SMC community dip?
- A bathing suit or any non-cotton apparel that you are most comfortable wearing
- SMC dryrobe (or warm bathrobe)
- Neoprene booties and gloves designed to keep your feet and hands comfortable
- Warm mittens
- Warm hat
- A waterproof bag (plastic laundry basket or tote works well) to hold your belongings on the wet beach
- A towel
- Warm wool socks or slippers/shoes (if needed for after your dip)
- Warm water or tea for your drive home
- An open and curious heart and mind
Q: “Why would I get off of my warm couch to go do that?!”
SHORT ANSWER: To experience a most intense present-moment, clean slate, re-set feeling.
LONG ANSWER: We all know life has, does and will throw us stressors again and again and again. Many stressors put our bodies in “fight or flight mode” – a genius design protecting us or preparing us to fight or run away from danger. The body is further designed to then “level off” or maintain homeostasis after the danger has subsided. But what if our stressors keep coming? Or what if they last all day? Or for two years? Or 50? And what if that’s what we get used to?…what we expect?…our new normal?
How then would our bodies level off if threats don’t cease? One way is by force – from total exhaustion and depletion – no more choice – causing dysfunction, disease.
But what if we took this conditioning and flipped it on its ass?
What if (like going to the gym to work out our physical muscles to get stronger and protect our bodies from injury) we deliberately put appropriate and safe stress on our brains so that we could walk toward and make friends with sensation and experience. So that we could “work out” our mental bodies. So that we could feel what it’s like and what it requires to move through it and shift our reaction.
And what if our neurochemistry supported this? So much so that we felt elated, supported, strong, joyful…relaxed even.
What if we felt it, breathed it, did it with a friend? What if we went inward instead of retreating?
What is we saved fight or flight (clenching and avoiding) for the times we really needed it?
Deliberate cold-water dipping can be that gym for the brain.
So when we’re riding the waves and climbing the mountains of life, the crashes and the descents become a bit more doable, level…and we, more resilient.
Q: “Is this for everyone?”
SHORT ANSWER: probably not, but I am not yet convinced of this.
LONG ANSWER: There are many ways and degrees (pun intended) to experience therapeutic cold-water exposure. To say this is a personal choice and experience is an understatement. Because of its popularity, the plethora of benefits it has provided folks across the globe, and the significant positive research brought to us by scientists such as Dr. Andrew Huberman @hubermanlab , (I like the way he delivers the neuroscience) it’s more important to make doubly sure this is something you want to do rather than something you feel pressured to do.
That’s number one.
Number two: answer the following questions for yourself deeply and honestly before and during your experience:
1) What is your INTENTION?
2) What is your METHOD?
3) Do you feel SAFE?
Very general beginning cold-water dipping recommendations:
- Never dip alone
- Never bridge/cliff jump
- Start slow
- Start with a short amount of time – seconds maybe – a couple times a week
- Have warmth readily available to you
- Avoid wearing cotton when wet
- Wear neoprene booties and gloves when in outdoor bodies of water
- Remember Mother Nature is in charge
- Remember there is no governing body in charge you how you dip other than YOUR BODY and you may never feel more connected to it or have more respect for it than after a cold dip. (Also see # 10)
- Stay hydrated, humble and conservative
Saltwater Mountain Co. is about using cold-water experiences as tools to stretch our self-care “inlook.” Physically. Mentally. Spiritually. Physiologically. There is no competition. Little measuring. More feeling.
With 2 1/2 years of a cold-water dipping practice, over 25 years of supporting women and families prepare for and give birth – and helping clients connect with their breath, body and mind through yoga and massage therapy, I can’t tell you if cold-water dipping is right for you, but if and after you’ve determined it is, I will happily and confidently be your ‘dipping doula.’
“What does Saltwater Mountain Co. mean?”
It’s a metaphor for power, patience and presence. Life and our bodies are made up of constant dips and rises. (Spell check always wants to write ‘roses,’ and I like that.)
The ocean and mountains are constantly moving and evolving no matter the pace. They are patient. They believe in and depend on their connection to the moon. And time. They lean into each other. They need each other not unlike the balance of the id and the super-ego — one driven by instinct to shape, carve and push, while the other represents containment and boundaries. (Perhaps we then are the ego – mediating and floating between the two)
One is messy and one is solid, making them the perfect match.
They attract the adventurous, the brave, and lovers of beauty. They are home to the rarest and most exotic creatures. They connect the earth and sky. And the sun is its most powerful self when reflecting on either.
They are as ancient, sacred and healing as it gets. I feel they must hold the deepest secrets. And these, when we show up and venture in, are what we can hope to unlock.
Q: “What should I wear?”
The SHORT ANSWER: Whatever you want!
The LONG ANSWER: When cold-water dipping (I’d stay away from cotton in the water!) folks wear any bathing suit that they have kicking around and in some cases, whatever’s clean (maybe). Some folks wear one piece, two piece, zip-up, short sleeve, long sleeve, underwear, leggings, t-shirt, wet suit, or sometimes a costume. And if you want to wear nothing, I wouldn’t stop you. It is truly a personal preference so I recommend to start with what you feel most comfortable in. My personal preference is to have maximum skin in direct contact with the water. Although the benefits may increase with the more skin exposed, this isn’t something you need to think too much about right away if you’re new to dipping, but maybe down the road if you’re looking for ways to “enhance the experience.” Wearing what YOU WANT keeps your mindset wide open to the cold and in a good position to receive the benefits. Again, this is your dip, your experience, your body. You’re showing up for you. That’s what’s so great about community dips, they are made up of a bunch of folks showing up for themselves. One magical byproduct of that is the community formed. Then you may find you start coming for that, and that’s the shift
Q: “Why do you do this?”
With my recent personal losses from 2019-2021, I experienced a most sudden void and emptiness that I instinctually wanted to immediately fix or fill – and couldn’t. It felt as though the floor had been taken out from under me.
The full-body cold-water sensation put that “floor” back under me. So much so, that I not only felt whole and ok, but really good!
It’s hard to find something as intense as deep loss to counteract it. Cold water was that for me. Literally, the crashing cold waves met me where I was. It was the only thing in nature that truly understood my grief state. The only thing as intense as the grief itself. It was profoundly balancing for me. I am now actually eager to get back in the cold-water to continue building this awesome resiliency that the cold provides.