The phrase “chill out” certainly didn’t come from this trick. You likely haven’t heard of Ayurveda but the centuries-old practice has influenced new techniques among mental health professionals recently and they have nothing to do with actually “cooling off.”
Ayurveda originated in India more than 3,000 years ago as a way to use herbal compounds, special diets, and other unique health practices built around three key concepts: universal interconnectedness (among people, their health, and the universe), the body’s constitution (prakriti), and life forces (dosha). And one aspect modern mental health professionals are adopting from Ayurveda to manage stress quickly is quite possibly the simplest thing you could imagine being prescribed: warming up.
And that’s it. Warming the body is what doctors are turning to in a variety of ways and for a variety of reasons.
“I often prescribe warm or hot baths to my patients to calm them,” said John Mayer, a Chicago-based clinical psychologist at Doctor On Demand. “The warm bath promotes the release of tranquilizing enzymes that physically treat anxiety, and the solitude of the bath works as a mindfulness exercise, so we have the physiological and psychological approach as best practices.”
Studies have shown that eating warm food, soaking in warm water, placing a heating pad on your feet, or even just bundling up in a heavy blanket can reduce anxiety, convincing your brain that you are safe.
According to Christa Santangelo, a clinical psychologist and an assistant clinical professor at the University of California, San Francisco, the physical changes can influence a mental change. As your body becomes warmer and starts to physically relax, the brain will soon follow.
“Any physical sensation that brings patients to relaxation and into the present moment may be helpful in anxiety reduction,” Santangelo said, almost making this warming technique sound like a meditative practice as much as anything else.
Of course, this isn’t a permanent fix or life hack for battling anxiety disorders at-large. Professionals still insist that while the warming technique is proving effective in calming patients, it’s really just a temporary fix. The benefit is that the physical comfort and relaxation of being warm helps a person better focus on whatever may be triggering their anxiety in the moment— something they wouldn’t be able to do as effectively without this rebirthed trick.
However, there are also arguments from some that a rise in heat could actually exacerbate anxiety, such as “summer anxiety,” for example, where a change in seasons and shift to significantly hotter weather induces anxiety for some. In these instances, for the people affected by it, the significant heat shift actually triggers stress
But of course, it couldn’t hurt to give it a try, right? Since the newly popular heating method is being used as a supplement within treatments, many people are only adding it to their existing plans outlined by physicians rather than replacing them with heating. In other words, it’s worth a try the next time you feel a bit anxious because it just might calm you down pretty fast.