Here’s Why a Grown-Up Bath Is the Stress Melter You Need Right Now
Skip the shower and opt for the tub. Here's why it's a good idea and how to get the most out of your soak
Experts lament that in today’s frenzied modern world, and the coronavirus pandemic, most of us leave one important thing off of our to-do lists—relaxation. And we all know that stress can wreak havoc on the body, literally making us sick. That’s why baths, albeit a grown-up version, are making a heroic comeback.
“When you’re in a bath you can’t really do anything else, and it forces you to clear your mind and be calm,” says Jessie Violet Larson, medical massage therapist with UPMC Center for Integrative Medicine in Pittsburgh. “Bath time can be a really great exercise for mind, body, and spirit, renewing your energy.” Larson encourages her patients to “hurry up and slow down,” as relaxation is vitally important to mental and physical health.
Plus, 2018 research published in the Journal of Applied Physiology found that a hot bath may have the same impact in reducing inflammation and controlling blood sugar levels as exercise. And if that doesn’t convince you to step into the tub, maybe the decades of research linking hot baths and better sleep is good motivation.
To give your baby bath a grown-up makeover, Larson encourages taking these steps:
- Make the bath your soul chamber, a place where you can go to relax and be alone. Does the door have a lock? Use it.
- Bring a cup of tea or a glass of wine to enjoy during your bath.
- Shut the harsh lights and bathe by candlelight instead. Bring on the aromatherapy with candles. Or consider firing up electrical candles, so you don’t accidentally light your hair on fire.
- Play soothing music, which has incredible powers of relaxation. (Spotify has a Relax in the Bath playlist.)
- Leave your phone outside so you can tune out the beeps and pings—unless you’re using it to play music, in which case set it to airplane mode.
- Bring a book if you like—a real one, with pages, rather than a tablet that’s bound to meet its demise in the water, and leave a towel within arm’s reach so you can touch it with dry hands.
- Or use the quiet time to meditate, perhaps guided by some of the more promising apps—here are some great mini-meditations to try.
- Leave the bubbles to the kids and add essential oils (try one to two drops of these calming scents), or try luscious bath oils and bath bombs. We’re loving Farmaesthetics Midnight Honey Bath & Beauty Oil, with sweet soy oil, honey, and vitamin E that conditions the skin, and Art Naturals Bath Bombs, with shea and cocoa butter for moisturization.
- Add the healing element of Epsom salt. “Soaking in hot water can help relieve any muscle aches and pains you have,” Larson says. “Epsom salt has magnesium in it, which enters the skin and which the muscles absorb, further helping your body to relax.”
While you might be tempted to quickly leave your bath and return to normal life, Larson recommends forcing yourself to stay in the water until it cools down. “It’s okay to be selfish and take time for yourself to relax,” she says.
- Jessie Violet Larson, medical massage therapist with UPMC Center for Integrative Medicine in Pittsburgh
- Journal of Applied Physiology: "Acute and chronic effects of hot water immersion on inflammation and metabolism in sedentary, overweight adults"
- Journal of Geriatric Psychology and Neurology: "Effects of Passive Body Heating on the Sleep of Older Female Insomniacs"