Baths are an ancient healing practice in almost every culture around the world, from the hot houses of Scandanavia and banyas of Russia to mud baths in Ecuador, hot springs in New Zealand, and ancient Indigenous parajes of the American Southwest. The therapeutic use of water to soothe mental and physical ailments (also known as hydrotherapy), moreover, can be either relaxing or stimulating to the central nervous system. This makes it an ideal tool for manipulating mood states.
As such, baths are one of the most bang-for-your-buck at-home de-stressing practices out there. A good soak, after all, is more physically comforting than therapy, and cheaper than a massage.
So how can we get an even bigger wellness benefit out of our baths? A good mental health bath recipe can go a long way– and that’s where these easy at-home bath rituals come in.
Alternating between a hot bath with a cold shower in the morning is an energizing, invigorating ritual that has been shown to ward off depression. (Just ask Tim Ferriss, who now swears by it.)
Hot scented baths, meanwhile, are good for rejuvenating muscles and taming chaotic thoughts before bed. Hydrotherapy, it seems, is not a panacea for all ills, but using the natural properties of water to manage your health comes pretty darn close.
Did you know, for example, that a detox bath can help your immune system fight off bugs by raising your core temperature, improving circulation, and soothing achey muscles? (Just make sure the water is hot– at least 100 or 102 degrees F– which should feel like a hot tub.)
You can also add essential oil to any bath to improve circulation and boost lymphatic system function. Invigorating citrus scents like grapefruit essential oil, lemon essential oil, and lemongrass essential oil work well, as does eucalyptus essential oil. Scroll down to read more about the specific quantities that work best, below.
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Ultimately, whether you’re new to hydrotherapy or a seasoned soaker, knowing the optimal temperatures and ratios of what to put in your baths can be a game changer that takes this common self-care treatment to the next level.
Here are 4 unique mental health bath rituals to try at home:
When it comes to baths that fight the blues, magnesium and essential oils that boost circulation are key.
For depression, you want to make a stimulating circulatory bath with a magnesium component (either epsom salts or magnesium bath oil, etc) as well as birch, pine, or rosemary essential oil. (<– You could also use bubble bath or liquid soap in these scents.)
Ideally, exfoliate your skin using a dry skin brush before drawing this bath. Then, fill tub with hot water, allowing the bathroom to steam up. Make sure the water is hot (around 100 degrees F, which should feel like the temperature of a hot tub).
Then, add 1/2 teaspoon essential oil (or scented soap) of your choice, and half a cup epsom salts (or 2 ounces magnesium oil) to the hot bath water. Stir gently with your hands to combine ingredients.
Soak for 5-8 minutes or until you start to sweat. Then, towel off and apply lotion or body oil to skin. If you’re doing this before bed, a magnesium body oil like Seven Minerals Pure Magnesium Oil Spray can help you sleep more soundly.
- Try This: Cuccio Somatology Yogahhh Detox Bath contains uplifting eucalyptus, calming magnesium, restorative epsom salts, and Greek mastiha, a gentle anti-inflammatory healing resin.
“The Wake Up”
This invigorating hydrotherapy treatment will give you a boost of energy and positive endorphins to power you through the day.
Fill tub with warm water and add a few drops of citrus essential oil, like sweet orange oil, lemon, grapefruit, or lemongrass essential oil. Citrus is stimulating but calming to the nervous system, so it’s ideal for use in the morning.
Add 10-20 more drops of your preferred oil and 2 organic green tea bags (not matcha) to the bath. Mix, allowing tea to steep for at least 5 minutes before entering the tub. Soak in the bath for 5-10 minutes tops.
Then, drain the water and take a cold shower, as cool as you can handle the water, for at least 1 minute straight.
End with a warm shower, washing your body as normal.
- Try This: Cliganic Organic Pink Grapefruit Essential Oil. (<– FYI the entire Cliganic line of essential oils and body oils is excellent. They’re organic, additive-free, packaged in dark glass for extended shelf life, and easily the cheapest organic essential oils on the market today by FAR. That’s why I link to them wherever possible.)
“The Stress Buster”
A balanced lavender bath is the OG self-care ritual.
Make an herbal bath with 10-15 drops lavender essential oil, epsom salts, and a teaspoon of almond milk (yes, you can add it to hot water for a serenely skin-softening boost). Make sure the water is hot, but not scalding (again, this should be no hotter than hot tub temperature).
Soak in the water for up to 30 minutes. This is an ideal bath for letting go after a long, stressful work day. Supposedly, introverts and people who tend to absorb the stress of those around them benefit most from taking baths at night. After many hours of interaction, it helps them re-set and clear frazzled energy.
Follow this hydrotherapy treatment with a quick shower and lotion of your choice. You can also try making this Easy Calming DIY Lavender Body Butter.
- Try This: Organic lavender essential oil is a key component in this soothing bath, but it’s also helpful to carry around a bottle of lavender oil to smell whenever you’re feeling stressed. Researchers have also proven that the smell of lavender soothes the nervous system, calms body tension, and improves quality of sleep.
Jet Lag Bath Remedy
Hydrotherapy is one of the best known remedies for jet lag and travel-related fatigue.
This revitalizing jet lag bath works best on the same day as a flight. Ideally, do this the first night after you land at your destination.
Fill a bath with warm, not hot water (between 80 and 92 degrees F, or about the temperature you would wash your hands at).
Add 10 drops of cypress essential oil (which is grounding), 10 drops of ginger essential oil (which is revitalizing) and 10 drops of sweet orange oil (which is calming). Conveniently, you can buy these oils in travel-friendly sizes that are perfect for vacations or long-distance work travel. Don’t leave home without them, especially if your hotel or Air BnB has a tub!
Soak in this bath for 15 to 30 minutes, then shower with a citrus- or ginger-scented body wash, which are ideal, invigorating scents for combatting fatigue and stress. For maximum benefit, consciously inhale the smell of the soap 3-5 times before washing.
- Try This: Burt’s Bees Grapefruit & Ginger Body Wash. (<— I’ve been using this eco-friendly foaming body wash since college and I’m absolutely addicted. The smell is SO soothing and intoxicating!)
When you’re done, rinse off with cool water before exiting the shower. This last step is really uplifting and energizing. Enjoy!
Related: How to Give Yourself a DIY Gua Facial at Home. (<– This can be particularly helpful if you have jaw pain or if you clench your jaw when stressed.)