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How to Get the Biggest Dopamine Response from an Ice Bath

Here are a few tips for getting the biggest dopamine response from an ice bath:

  • Start with shorter durations first. Begin with just 1-2 minutes in the ice bath and work your way up gradually over time. Going straight into a long ice bath can be a shocking experience.
  • Aim for 5-15 minutes. Most research suggests the optimal time in an ice bath for boosting dopamine and other benefits is 5-15 minutes. Any longer may not provide additional benefits.[1][2]
  • End on a positive note. Try to stay in the full duration you planned without getting out early. Ending at your target time will provide a sense of accomplishment.
  • Breathe deeply and stay calm. Deep breathing can help lower stress response and allow you to remain in the cold water longer.
  • Start gently. Ease into the cold water gradually rather than jumping straight in. This helps minimize the shock.
  • Go for 57-59°F (14-15°C) water. This cold but not freezing temperature seems optimal for providing a dopamine rush.[3]
  • Keep head and torso submerged. Having just hands or feet in may not provide the same dopamine boost.
  • Pair with other activities. Combining the ice bath with exercise or meditation beforehand may enhance the dopamine response.[4]

The biggest dopamine rush seems to come from gradually working up to 14-15 minute ice bath sessions in 57-59°F water while keeping calm and breathing deeply. Listen to your body, go at your own pace, and discontinue if you feel unwell.

  1. Shevchuk, NA. Adapted cold shower as a potential treatment for depression. Medical Hypotheses. 2008. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17993252/
  2. Janský L, et al. Immune system of cold-exposed and cold-adapted humans. Eur J Appl Physiol Occup Physiol. 1996. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8925815/
  3. Yanagisawa O, et al. Effects of different types of cold stimulation on the skeletal muscle and skin blood flow response. Int J Biometeorol. 2022.
  4. Kox M, et al. Voluntary activation of the sympathetic nervous system and attenuation of the innate immune response in humans. PNAS. 2014.

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