Cold Showers: A Necessary Evil

If you can’t handle a few minutes of being cold, what can you really handle in life?

There’s a fine line between sadomasochism and personal growth. My morning cold showers are certainly a little bit of both. Standing underneath my shower moments before I turn it to full blast, I question whether or not I truly am sadomasochistic. As I dry off my reddened and chilled skin afterwards, I feel calm, centered, and alert.

A New Way to Fight Cold

After moving to Auckland, New Zealand from Santa Monica, California and succumbing to multiple colds – with what I assume was due to drastically different weather patterns – I wanted to train my body to respond to cold weather without ending up in bed with a cough and fever. Living in California’s perpetual summer most of life meant that I only got sick every 18-24 months, so it was surprising – and annoying – to have to deal with pesky colds every few weeks. But rather than trying to fight the cold by staying warm, I resolved to become good friends with it instead.

After some research, I decided that cold showers would be my tool to beat the cold, wet, and windy climates of Auckland that had left me bedridden so many times when I first arrived a few years ago. Upon returning to Auckland after a long-term travel project, I thought that regularly placing myself in the extremes of physical environments (the coldness of ice cold showers and the heat of saunas and spas) would be a proactive way of training my body to adapt to the constantly changing weather in New Zealand, where a single hour can have sunshine, wind, rain, and hail.

What I didn’t expect is that cold showers provided an excellent tool for personal growth as well.

Getting Comfortable Being Uncomfortable

The one thing I know for certain is that all change requires discomfort. You can’t develop the physique you want, get the promotion you seek, or even evolve emotionally without stepping outside of your comfort zone. You can’t use the ‘Law of Attraction’ to get six pack abs, expect to by fluent in a foreign language just be traveling there on holiday, or develop a new skill like salsa dancing by watching from the sidelines. Big goals require discomfort.

If you want to grow – in any aspect of self or life – you have to get comfortable being uncomfortable, and being uncomfortable is exactly what cold showers are all about.

By training your mind to accept, embrace, and overcome seemingly insignificant uncomfortable experiences – like cold showers – the resulting confidence will permeate through to the rest of your everyday life. Cold showers are not about cold water – though there are health benefits as you’ll read in the next section – but rather about addressing the big picture of your life. Those few minutes spent under the icy cold morning water are the training ground for cultivating confidence, focus, fearlessness, willpower, and determination. In essence, cold showers make the rest of your life easier.

Let’s get one thing straight: Cold showers suck. And I assume they will continue to suck for a long time. But as the consecutive days of morning cold showers tally up, I find them sucking less and less. My mind and body are adapting to the cold. I can feel both the physical and mental benefits of this worthwhile routine. I don’t complain about the weather anymore and, more importantly, I don’t complain about my circumstances, challenges, and everyday life stresses as much either. The cold has shown me I can handle it all in stride.

Nonetheless, cold showers are not something I necessarily look forward to doing in the morning. But afterwards – without fail – I’m happy I persevered. To know that at 6am I’ve already stared directly into the eyes of my fear and consciously overcome that fear sets the tone for the rest of my day.

The scared voice in my head is not in control.

I am.

Cold Showers are Healthy, Too

It’s easier to convince people to try new things when they learn about what benefits they can expect when they start doing something new. So, for those people in mind, taking cold showers and exposure to cold environments in general – contrary to popular belief and myth – provides a healthy method for regulating internal body temperature and strengthening the immune system, and has been shown to be associated with these health benefits:

  • Cold showers are considered a hormetic stressor; a low level acute stressor that improves health.
  • Improved blood circulation
  • Improved immune function
  • Improved mood
  • Increased testosterone levels
  • Metabolic advantages

If you’re looking for more information on cold showers and inspirational people who have dedicated their lives to the health benefits of cold showers and exposure to cold environments, check out Wim Hof, the Ice Man, who has set 21 Guiness World Records for his amazing cold-inspired feats; or Joel Runyon, who created a mobile app to track your consecutive days of cold showers. Joel claims if you can do 30 consecutive days of 5-minute cold showers, you can do anything. I believe him.

Getting Started

If you’re new to cold showers, just end your normal hot shower with 30 seconds of cold water. Try to remain calm and keep your breathe flowing deeply and fully. Really sink into the moment, close your eyes, and allow yourself to feel the cold completely. Don’t fight the cold by tensing your body; rather, relax into the experience and remind yourself it only lasts for a few moments. The faster you accept what is happening, the more quickly you will recover from the initial shock. You can increase exposure over time as you get more comfortable with the cold. Notice how alert and energized you feel after each shower. Then smile, and carry on with your day.

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  1. …alright, i think you’ve convinced me.
    (might start with 3 seconds though.;))

    p.s. just BY travelling there on holiday.

  2. (a position, that is;))

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