Branden, a musician in California, has a unique shower routine: He turns on the water, gets in the tub and plops his butt down, lying supine and still while the hot water pounds his hangover away.
He’s a shower sitter—and just one of a number of guys who swear by the “shower bath” as a next-level, galaxy-brain method of bathing relaxation.
I found him after I kept stumbling upon Reddit posts praising the indulgent delights of the shower sit. Because once I made my way through all those threads, I needed to know: Have I been showering wrong my whole life?
Possibly. “The water drowns out background noise, while you control the temperature, maximizing comfort,” Branden says. “We take a break from accomplishing the goal of cleaning and instead have some quiet time alone to slow down. It’s like forgetting your phone while going to the restroom: There are no distractions, and you can relax.”
At least until the Advil kicks in, about 20 minutes into the shower bath. “The hot water on my head seems to distract from the pain until the medication does its thing,” Branden says. “Then I’ll complete my shower routine as normally would, while standing.”
Dave, another Californian, discovered the shower sit after bathing his son, who has muscular dystrophy and requires a shower chair. Sometimes it helps him get more thinking done, he says. Other times, “the shower chair with the hot water rolling down might offer freedom from thought, providing a blank, zen-like mindspace, bringing [me] closer to true thoughtlessness.”
There’s a reason that feeling is so satisfying. According to Dr. A.J. Marsden, assistant professor of human services and psychology at Beacon College in Leesburg, Florida, the shower itself gives us a little boost of happy brain chemicals and relaxed muscles. “In general, whether seated or standing, the warm water eases muscle soreness and helps to relax us, [and] hot showers increase our oxytocin levels, so showering can actually decrease anxiety.”
Showering, Marsden says, is one of the few places left where we’re alone, can expect privacy and stay free from distraction—“unless you have small children,” she laughs.
In this scenario, she says, our brain “releases dopamine, the chemical responsible for happiness and creativity. By sitting in the shower, we’re more likely to activate the ‘default mode’ of our brain, which allows our mind to wander and promotes the free association of ideas. … Some suspect [it’s] one reason why we have a tendency to sing in the shower.”
It’s well established that our creative juices flow in the shower (Aaron Sorkin supposedly showers eight times a day!). But people like Branden, who sit in the shower for sake of headache or hangover, are more in it for the anxiety relief and relaxation.
In that regard, the relaxed post-shower vibe actually feels a lot like the dopamine bump after masturbation. Locking the door and sitting down in the shower extends our alone time free from distraction, and for 15 blissful minutes, our brain is happy.
Marsden says the people she’s seen “who admit to sitting in the shower also report that they feel more relaxed and less tense. Interestingly, many people also report bringing a beverage in the shower with them, such as a glass of wine or a beer. This may help them relax even more.”
That’s not to say there aren’t a few drawbacks to sitting in the shower. Dermatologists and environmentalists argue showers should be capped at about five minutes to better care for your skin and the environment. Secondly, the shower, being hot and moist, is a prime place for mold to grow—so you should make sure you’ve got a clean tub before rubbing your butt on it. Butthole mold is no joke, as redditor u/justforguave discovered. In late 2017, he posted in the subreddit r/TIFU, or “Today I F***** Up”:
I still love sitting while showering. I clean my downstairs and then it’s sit-n-shampoo time. Until now… I notice an incredible itch to my a**crack. An insatiable itch. And my skin is cracking now. The itch zone is increasing. I have a red bullseye around my a** crack. Uh oh. One dermatologist visit later, I realize I have ringworm. The doctor asks if I’ve been to a tropic zone lately. Nope. “Oh that’s odd, we usually get ringworm cases in people from humid, mold-prone areas.” I ask how else to get it. “Usually from prolonged contact with moldy surfaces.”
Cool. So from sitting in my shower [for] so long, I got my a** ringworm.
It’s for this reason Dave suggests a shower chair. “I don’t plug the drain because soap scum will populate the pan around my feet,” he says. “But if you’re regularly tired when you shower, hungover, lazy, injured or you just want a break from standing for a bit, a shower chair is cheap and offers a great way to relax for a bit.”
With all of this knowledge, I am now ready for a shower bath of my own. Being the mopey, sickly ginger boy I am, it’s a wonder this wasn’t already part of my nightly routine. Throwing ringworm caution to the wind, I sit my butt on the floor and lie back. It’s a gluttony of excess. It feels like an out-of-body experience. I’m a convert.
So long as you don’t make it a shower-wasting, butthole-infecting habit, take it from Dave, me and the rest of the shower-sitting world and sit your lazy butt down in the tub. My advice? Do it when you’re tired, hungover or just plain sad. Let the water wash away your tears, maybe crack a beer or six and barely move while your anxieties melt away.