The everyday ritual of getting clean can also have incredible mood-boosting benefits. These expert tips make it so easy to turn your shower into a soothing oasis of good energy.
Bathing is seen as a meditative experience that cleanses both the body and the spirit in Japanese culture. Soaking in an onsen—a Japanese hot spring bath—is an unhurried custom of relaxation and peace.
However, in our hectic lives, we treat bathing more as a speedy means of good hygiene rather than a moment of zen, and we feel lucky whenever we manage to find the time to luxuriate in the tub. But there are simple ways to create calm and serenity during your daily shower. It doesn’t take much to turn your bathroom into a haven of quiet relaxation, bringing you a few minutes of tranquility each day.
Here are five easy ways to transform your shower into your wellness sanctuary:
1. Set a calming atmosphere
Nothing is more jarring than flipping on bright bathroom lights a few minutes after you’ve rolled out of bed. Try installing dimmers on your bathroom light switches so you can shower in soft lighting. Place a speaker on your vanity counter and listen to soothing tunes to start your day (classical music is especially good for reducing anxiety).
If your kids’ bath toys are often scattered around your bathroom, keep a basket nearby to store them so that your time in the bathroom is precisely that: your time. After all, it’s hardly relaxing to step on a squeaky rubber duckie as you enter the shower.
2. Choose products with aromatherapy benefits
There’s a scientific reason why certain scents affect our mood: Smell receptors in our nose send messages to our limbic system, which is the part of the brain that controls our emotions. Citrus scents are shown to help decrease stress and boost energy. One study found that taking in the aroma of a lavender, chamomile, and neroli (citrus) oil blend for 10 minutes significantly reduced feelings of anxiety and stress.
3. Use your shower as hydrotherapy
The simple act of alternating between warm and cool water during your shower can be therapeutic, both physically and mentally. Studies suggest that doing a daily cold-water rinse of anywhere from about 30 seconds to two minutes may help boost the immune system, increase endorphins, and decrease the stress-inducing hormone cortisol, as well as symptoms of depression. At the very least, finishing up your shower with a quick burst of cold water can jolt you awake on sleepy mornings.
4. Do a deep massage on your scalp
In Japan, the “head spa” is a popular, multistep salon treatment that’s like a facial for your scalp. It’s said to help hair grow healthier, and the massage portion of the treatment also triggers feelings of relaxation. Hairstylist Yoshie Sakuma, who performs the head spa technique at the Pierre Michel Salon in New York City, says you can do a quickie version at home to reap the clean-skin, calm-mind benefits.
While shampooing, use the pads of your fingertips—not your fingernails, which can scratch the skin—to massage your scalp for two minutes, massaging side to side as well as in circular motions. “Use fairly strong pressure and be sure to massage around your hairline and the nape of your neck, too,” says Sakuma. “This action helps exfoliate the scalp and clear away product buildup while also boosting circulation, which encourages healthy hair follicles.”
5. Practice breathing exercises while you cleanse
Showering is one of the few daily activities where you’re guaranteed alone time, so why not use it to practice some calming mindfulness? A few minutes of deep breathing exercises are shown to lower stress and anxiety levels. First, inhale deeply through your nose, then slowly exhale through your mouth as if you’re blowing our birthday cake candles; repeat for two minutes or longer.
While you’re doing your deep breathing, pay close attention to your sense of touch. Note the luxurious foamy lather on your skin and the warmth of the water as it trickles over your body.
By shifting your focus to the experience of your daily shower and the emotions it arouses, rather than using the time to run through a mental checklist of the day’s to-dos, you’ll create a moment of calm and peace every morning that will help you face the day feeling your best.
Emotional health benefits of classical music: https://www.thehealthy.com/mental-health/classical-music-effects/
Scent receptors are tied to our limbic system: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/consumer-health/expert-answers/aromatherapy/faq-20058566
Effects of aromatherapy on anxiety and sleep quality of patients: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3588400/
Aromatic effects of Japanese yuzu on psycho-emotional states and autonomic nervous system activity: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27103942/
The effects of cold showering on health, work, and mental health: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5025014/
Adapted cold shower as a potential treatment for depression: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S030698770700566X
Stress management: breathing exercises for relaxation https://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/uz2255