How good is a bath?

I am just so happy there is a day to celebrate the Bath! Because I love to have a bath! Happy International Bath Day everyone!

There is nothing quite like having a really hot, really long, really lovely soak in a bath. That’s why I do it nearly every day. For years having a bath has been my go-to method of psychological self-care, so I wasn’t surprised at all that art of indulging in a long, hot soak gets celebrated with its very own international day.

However, apparently the bath is not really being celebrated today for its restorative properties.

According to legend, and the google, it is on this day that Greek mathematician, scientist and scholar, Archimedes, while taking a bath discovered that an object’s volume could be accurately measured by being submerged in water. Unable to contain his excitement, Archimedes leapt out of the bathtub and yelled, “Eureka, Eureka!” as he ran through the streets of Syracuse, Greece. Apparently, no one knew Archimedes’ exact date of birth, only the year (287BC) so the day chosen to commemorate his existence is the day that he leapt out of the bath tub, June 14th. How was this date determined? The ancient Greek legend says that it was exactly one week before the beginning of summer. The calendar in those days was astronomical and seasons were determined due to the 23.5-degree tilt of the Earth’s rotational axis in relation to its orbit around the sun. Summer began (then and today) on June 21st so a week before is June 14th and this was the date set – International Bath Day. Fascinating.

Excellent work Archimedes! But I reckon you should have stayed in there longer. Baths are not just for smart things. Baths and bathing have been such a huge part of human health that there's pretty much a bathing tradition on every continent; Scandinavians take plunges in cool water after time in a sauna, while the Roman love for baths gave birth to huge bathing complexes with under-floor heating and a range of temperatures, some of which are still standing today. Nowadays, however, hot baths in one guise or another are largely prescribed for relaxation and getting a bit of time for yourself. If you ask me, which no one did, they are the ultimate form of self-care. Here’s why.

Sam’s list of reasons why baths are the ultimate form of self-care.

  1. Being horizontal in water is good for your mood.
This is a scientific fact. In 2002 a University of Wolverhampton study found that a daily bath, usually at the end of the day, significantly improved the mood and optimism of the participants, which was attributed to a combination of bodily comfort, warmth, isolation, and body positioning.
It turns out that our bodies associate horizontal conditions with relaxation and vulnerability, particularly in the bath, which the researchers reckon is possibly because it mimics the warm, liquid conditions of the womb. One baby-bath manufacturer even makes baths that consciously feel like the womb, to calm any unhappy little ex-occupants. Some scholars think that this particular positioning gives us a sensation of security.
  1. Hot baths before bed help you sleep better.
A good night's sleep is associated with a host of health benefits, from immune system strength to better pain recovery, and a heated bath before bed is apparently a good way to ensure that you drift off to the Land of Nod without too much difficulty. It's a matter of temperature adjustment and hormones.
A drop in body temperature at night is one of the classic signals for the body to start producing melatonin, the hormone that induces sleep. Our bodies get colder at night naturally: apparently the temperature dip starts two hours before bed and lasts till about 4 a.m. Kick-starting that downward shift by heating yourself up artificially is an old trick to get yourself to feel sleepy. Get out of a bath, cool yourself down for a while, then slip into bed. Don't massively overheat yourself, though, or you'll find you're actually revved up instead of chilled out.
  1. Baths can help ward off feelings of loneliness.
Researchers at Yale University claim people who take long, hot showers or baths may do so to ward off feelings of loneliness or social isolation (well this makes sense, Single Sam!), and say their findings could help treat mental illnesses and social phobias.
​They conducted four studies – the first of which concluded that people suffering from chronic loneliness use hot baths or showers as a substitute for emotional warmth.  A second study showed that physical coldness induces feelings of loneliness, whilst a third demonstrated that the need for socialising or emotional wellbeing, triggered by memories of past rejection, could be relieved through physical warmth. The final study showed that all the above behaviours are subconscious, and that most people’s perception of someone who takes long baths or showers is that they are sociable and happy.
In summary, the more isolated we might feel, the more baths we will take. ​Researchers say their findings have potential significance for the treatment of severe mental and social disorders with major public health benefits. Just as elderly people often relocate to warmer climates, the study points out that there may be benefits to people with mental health difficulties in doing so.
  1. It relaxes us. Der.
But it also assists with relaxing people who might have more difficulty relaxing than the rest of us.
American studies have been undertaken on “delinquent” boys who became calmer after regular warm baths, and there is also evidence that Epsom Salts baths can have positive, relaxing effects on children experiencing autism.
  1. It’s a natural high.

As our body and mind relaxes, we release our natural mood-enhancing chemicals. Some serotonin and endorphins to help us feel feelings of pleasure and contentedness.

  1. It is good for physical things too.
Things like our personal hygiene. Which is very, very, very important.
Baths have also been known to help manage headaches, relieve certain skin conditions, lower our blood pressure, calm muscle pain, improve blood circulation, reduce cold symptoms, detoxify our skin and pores and I could probably go on.

So Happy International Bath Day friends! Good for maths, but good for you! Go have one!

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