An Evolutionary Argument for the Psychological Benefits of Cryotherapy
After immersion in cold water, many people report feeling more focused, driven, and better at sustaining attention. These reports seem confusing: why would a painful stimulus, like cold water, make us more task-oriented? Here, I provide an evolutionary argument for these reports, beginning with how painful experiences cause us to refocus our attention towards the environment. The attentional sharpening caused by pain developed in our evolutionary past: focusing on our surroundings after feeling pain may have improved survival in our evolved environment. Today, these attention-improving mechanisms still remain, even for marginally painful stimuli, such as the feeling of cold water rushing over our skin. Although cold showers might seem daunting, they may provide cognitive benefits rooted in our evolutionary past.