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The fine art of bathing

I can live without most luxuries but I’d be hard-pressed to give up my bath. I know the world is split between shower people and bath people – and I do love a good shower too (but only in the morning!).  However, to my mind, there is nothing so soothing and relaxing as a long soak at the end of the day.  It’s a vital part of my wind-down ritual and I feel weird going to bed without a dousing.

Last year I visited Bad Ragaz in Switzerland where bathing is elevated to a high art. This ritzy spa resort can trace its roots back to 1242, when hunters saw steam coming out of the Tamina gorge and quietly backed away, thinking they’d stumbled across a dragon. They’d actually discovered a thermal spring and, over the centuries, the waters developed a reputation for healing and became a place of pilgrimage for those with arthritis and other chronic health conditions.

Bathing is superb for arthritic conditions as it reduces the force of gravity that compresses painful joints. It can also decrease swelling and inflammation as well as increase circulation. A good soak is equally good for our mental and emotional wellbeing. Soaking in warm (not hot) water daily for eight weeks was found to be more effective at easing anxiety and stress than a prescription drug, while a recent German study found that bathing followed by being wrapped in blankets with hot water bottles (possibly the nicest cure ever) improved symptoms of depression, reaping more benefit even than exercise programmes.

‘Experts believe that a disrupted circadian rhythm could be a common factor,’ says Suzanne Duckett, author of a fabulous book called Bathe (Lagom, £16.99) – packed with watery delights and suggestions of where and how to bathe. She explains that the body may not regulate its temperature properly in people with depression: ‘Immersion in hot bathwater raised participants’ body temperature and experts suggest this works to restore the body’s natural temperature rhythm over the course of a day.’

I’ll be honest – I don’t really think about all these benefits when I drop into my tub.  I’m just focusing on the deep pure pleasure of it. In my book Spirit of the Home (Harper Collins, £9.99) I point out that it’s often the one time when we get to relax on our own – so turn your bathroom into your own sanctuary (if it’s overrun with children’s toys or just not the most sybaritic space, simply ramp up the candlelight – not only does it relax you further, it also covers up a multitude of sins).

Bubbles may be fun but they come at a chemical price, so stick to salts and natural oils. If you’re feeling in full-on goddess mode, splurge on ilapothecary’s Magnesium & Amethyst Deep Relax Bath Soak (£55 for 400ml) – bath heaven. Neal’s Yard Remedies’ Aromatic Bath Salts (£14.50 for 350g) is a mind and body soothing mix of lavender, geranium and marjoram – delicious. I also love Beauty by Bayari’s Exotic Moon Bath (£8 for 200g) which is a true witch’s potion of a bath brew.

Aromatherapy Associates are the high priestesses of the ultimate oil blends. Not cheap but, once experienced, rarely forgotten. I’m a long-term fan of their Deep Relax stress-releasing, sleep-inducing blend (£49 for 55ml) and also their Support Breathe bath oil (£47 for 55ml) which helps clear stuffy noses and aching heads.

Or, of course, you could concoct your own. Buy a tub of Epsom salts (track down good deals on Amazon – I once ordered what turned out to be an entire sack for a ridiculously good price) and add your choice of pure essential oils to a couple of handfuls of salts. My go-to oils for relaxation include lavender, geranium, bergamot and Roman chamomile. If I feel a cold brewing, I’ll add peppermint, eucalyptus, tea-tree and lemon. I buy my oils from Star Child who have a fabulous selection of good quality oils. Happy bathing!

Want to go one step further?  Read about why I also love floatation! 

If you enjoyed this post,  you might be interested in my upcoming book, Ancient Wisdom for Everyday Living, which will be published by Kyle Books in August.  You can pre-order it here.

Image by Timothy Dykes at Unsplash

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