We have all been there. It’s been a long stressful day and now you’re home. What’s the best way to unwind? Should you take a long walk, pour yourself a glass of wine? Maybe you should just binge-watch your favorite show on Netflix. None of these is necessarily a bad choice, but perhaps there is a better plan. A plan you may not, given your busy life, have considered in awhile. When was the last time you took a bath? (No, we are not suggesting anything about your personal hygiene.) We are talking about a bath from the perspective of unwinding for the day. There certainly are a lot of stock images of women soaking in a bath. It is almost a female relaxation trope. Those images often include a glass of wine, perhaps a candle or flower petals, but is there anything to all of this? In a survey done by Angie’s List, it was found that 90% prefer showers to baths. The demographic most likely to shower rather than bathe are men in their 20s. Bath people (no surprise) are women in their 40s. So it would seem there is some truth to the imagery. But no matter what the demographic, showers definitely outweigh baths by a considerable margin. Let’s face it, showers are simply quicker and more efficient for daily cleaning. Taking a bath, unless you are six, is generally something special and premeditated.
The History of the Bath
Baths have a bit of a hot and cold history (pun intended). A lot of the trouble had to do with a lack of access to private indoor plumbing and even water. For this reason, in the ancient world, the public bath was commonplace. One of the first baths was the Great Bath of the Indus Valley Civilization dating back 3000 years. This was a massive structure (hence the name) and was a central part of the city. Archeologists believe it was used for special religious ceremonies as well as to purify and renew the well being of the citizens. Where bathing was important, and it wasn’t necessarily everywhere, it was a community event. Only wealthy people could afford the luxury of private baths due to the cost and requirements of personal plumbing. Often grass and certain herbs were added to the baths to accentuate the experience. While the east continued the long tradition of bathing, the process began to fall out of favor in Europe for two distinct reasons. First, the switch from wool to linen clothing. Linen was easier to clean and maintain. This meant that one could bathe less and change clothes more. Having a lot of linen was also a sign of social status so appearance eclipsed cleanliness. The lack of cleanliness wasn’t without consequence. Poor hygiene leads to illness. So much so that medical opinions at the time suggested that the odors of dirty clothes caused disease. (The germ theory of sickness had not yet been established.) Community bathing had its own issues. It, unfortunately, led to public bathhouses becoming places for prostitution and other questionable activities. Those with access to water who could simply bathe at home did so using basins and washtubs.
The Bath – Not Just for Cleaning Anymore
With modern indoor plumbing becoming a thing in most homes by the 1950s, more people were washing up more frequently. But what about the use of a nice bath for relaxing or even improving your wellness? While many grasp the basic concept behind the soothing power of a nice soak, here are some wellness benefits you might not have known.
Increasing your heart rate
While taking a warm bath is no replacement for a good workout, soaking in a hot bath will increase your heart rate. Don’t go crazy with the temperature and if you have a pre-existing condition, it may not be a good idea. However, a nice warm bath will give your heart some healthy low-impact exercise.
Breathe a little easier in the tub
Being in the warm tub can also help with oxygen and lung capacity. For this one to have the full effect you need to submerge your chest under the water as well. The warm water gets your heart beating faster and your oxygen intake will improve. Additionally, the steam can help clear your sinuses and chest.
Calm your busy brain and improve your mood
Soaking in a nice hot bath can help reduce pain and inflammation. It can also calm your central nervous system, reducing your levels of stress and improving your mood. A warm bath can increase serotonin levels, which is the happiness hormone. The human body is made mostly of water and that is why we are encouraged to drink plenty of it. But soaking in water is also extremely beneficial. We can enhance this by adding certain oils or salts to a bath or bathing in a natural body of water or pool, rich in naturally occurring minerals.
Adding Things to Your Bath
So a nice hot bath can help improve your wellness, calm your nerves, and help you regain balance after a stressful day. Are you already planning your next tub time? Is there anything you can do to make your next soak time even better? Yes, there are some simple things you can do to step up your bath action. It may be something as easy as putting on some relaxing music, turning the lights down, and lighting some candles. There are also some things you can add to your bath water to increase the benefits of tub time.
One of the most popular bath additives is the essential oil, lavender. It is very popular because of its delightful scent and its effect on people’s moods. Lavender has been found to relieve pain and inflammation. It has also been found to help with headaches. Finally, the smell itself is so pleasant, that alone can help elevate your mood.
Aromatherapy has many adherents. If nothing else it can make your soak all that more enjoyable. Lemon as an essential oil has been found to have antiseptic, antifungal, antimicrobial, and detoxifying properties that can help your immune system according to a study from 2015. Keep in mind that citrus oils can make your skin extra sensitive to the sun. Make sure you give yourself a good rinse before going out sunbathing.
Do you like sushi? How about that yummy ginger on the side? You should eat a bite between each roll to cleanse the palate. You can also add it to your bath. Just add a tablespoon of freshly chopped ginger to your bathwater. Many say that it can help with congestion and will also help soothe sore muscles.
This is the standard one you hear about all the time. Epsom salt baths have been recommended and used for literally hundreds of years as a way to ease aches and pains. This is not the “salt” you put on your fries, however. Epsom is the place in England where it was originally discovered and is found naturally in springs. Add a half cup to your tub. Keep in mind if you have sensitive or irritated skin you might want to avoid this one.
While not for everyone due to its strong and sharp scent, it may be just the thing you are looking for. Many people are attracted to its strong fragrance and find it stimulating. Inhaling the vapor can open up your nasal passages similar to menthol or camphor. You don’t need a lot though. Keep in mind some people are allergic, so test yourself first.
CBD is a derivative of the hemp plant and has in many studies found to be helpful in maintaining health and wellness in its own unique way. It works with the body’s endocannabinoid system to help maintain homeostasis. Unlike its cousin THC, CBD will not get you high. Adding it to your bath water or using a CBD infused soap might be just the thing you are looking for to bring your tub time to the next level.
A Final Word on Baths for Relaxation
We all want a way to unwind and relax at the end of a long day. Maintaining balance and harmony is something most people could use more of these days. Maybe you are a committed “bath person”. Based on a survey, if you are female in your 40s, you just might be. Even if you don’t fit into that demographic (here’s looking at you guys) a nice long bath, with some added ingredients, might just be what you are looking for.
Disclaimer: The statements made regarding these products have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The efficacy of these products has not been confirmed by FDA-approved research. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. All information presented here is not meant as a substitute for or alternative to information from health care practitioners. Please consult your health care professional about potential interactions or other possible complications before using any product. The Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act requires this notice.