Today, I could not turn the shower faucet to the right any further. Victory.
My first experience with cold showers was excited but short lived. Joel Runyon had a blog post and YouTube video discussing cold showers and how to begin. I was pumped and I gave it a try. I tried it, I yelped, I nearly peed myself, and then I stopped for a while.
It was too uncomfortable. I didn’t want to replace hot, enjoyable showers with frigid, painful experiences. Despite all of the health benefits, I now know that being uncomfortable is exactly what cold showers are all about.
If health isn’t high on your priority list, getting used to discomfort on a daily basis should be. By subjecting myself to discomfort now, I increase the likelihood I can stay the course in other areas of my life that are more important. Best of all, there are plenty of health benefits associated with cold shower therapy.
Living a Meaningful Life
Anyone who leads a meaningful life will attest to a few truths. In order to achieve anything, discomfort is going to play a massive role. Whether you are uncomfortably broke and have to borrow money to put gas in your car or if you experience discomfort asking the most beautiful woman on a date, purpose and meaning come with sacrifice.In many cases, the sacrifice is living with discomfort.
Conditioning your brain to accept, survive, and embrace discomfort is one of the practices that can greatly impact the rest of your life. Entrepreneurs, athletes and other professionals may consider cold shower therapy trivial when pursuing their goals, but don’t miss out on the big picture. It isn’t about the cold water. It’s about the discomfort associated with cold showers, which you can overcome every day towards a greater goal in life.
No Way That is Healthy
If you have heard your parents’ conventional wisdom growing up, you’re probably not too fond of the cold. Supposedly, it can make you sick, but plenty of studies have showed this to be a myth. The truth, is that cold shower therapy is one of the healthiest modes for your body to regulate your internal temperature and it actually strengthens your immune system. It is considered a hormetic stressor, meaning that exposure to low level toxins can improve your health.
Improved blood circulation – showering with cold water is in going to improve your blood circulation between organs and skin considerably. With cold temperatures, blood flows to your organs for protection to keep them the warmest. Warm water sends the blood rushing to the skin so alternating between cold and hot (as I will detail later) can be a great way of improving your blood circulation. If you are just beginning, it might be best to stick to a cold shower only.
Improved mood – it is hard to quantify mood and indeed it is altered by many things. As my Unbalanced Brain series indicates, there are scientific reasons for many mood disorders. Cold showers can stimulate noradrenaline secretion in the brain, which is associated with improving mood disorders like depression.
Increased immune strength – unlike what your mother told you, spending time in the cold can actually increase your immune strength. Those who take cold showers typically exhibit higher white blood cell counts as well as higher concentrations of plasma, T helper cells, and lymphocytes.
Increased testosterone levels – I’m always looking for healthy and natural ways of increasing my testosterone levels. It’s a boon in the gym, it makes me feel more motivated in general, and manipulating it naturally is the safest long term method I can think of. When I heard that cold showers can vastly increase testosterone production, I was even more thrilled. Not only is testosterone elevated during the shower, but throughout the day as well.
Metabolic advantages – from a body composition perspective, cold showers are also incredibly useful. The cold water induces an increased metabolic rate. The cold temperatures force your body to re-regulate the body temperature continually, which utilizes many calories. Mark mentions that an evolutionarily retained adaptation to cold water exposure is a layer of protective fat. Therefore, get your cold shower short and sweet and then get out. Longer exposure to cold therapy is not necessarily better.
Better breathing – you may hyperventilate as soon as you get in a cold shower, which is a pretty natural response. However, the panic will only make the experience worse so it is in your best interest to breathe calmly and deeply. Few people breathe deeply so you may need cold showers to help you do so.
Make Your Life Easier
One of my favorite things to do is give actionable tips to get started. In this case, making it easier to take cold showers may be against the principle of increasing your acceptance of discomfort, but I’m going to give you some tips and practices anyway.
Big goals require discomfort to achieve – as soon as you make the realization that the goals you want to achieve most in your life are subject to discomfort, it should be an easy sell. The difference between making a good impression, standing your ground, and being successful could be altered by getting used to discomfort.
Joel’s TEDx talk compares his decision to strike out as an entrepreneur to the experiences felt during a cold shower. It isn’t going to be fun, it might be a bit scary, to many it seems stupid, but it’s all a matter of discomfort.
It starts with day 1 – when I first considered cold showers one of my biggest fears was “for how long?” Do I need to take cold showers for the rest of my life? If you think about it, you will never get there. Just take it a day at a time. Get in the cold shower one day for a few minutes, get out, and you will be fine. Then do it the next day. It will get easier and easier so long as you can maintain the practice.
Don’t try it gradually – unless you have health problems, I would not try to go from hot to cold over the course of your shower. In my experience, I forgot to get cold a lot of the times, in the hot water it is easy to talk yourself out of a cold shower, and partial immersion into cold shower therapy just doesn’t seem to work. It might work for you, but based on my experience it is not an effective method.
Work up a sweat first – I have the advantage of living in Austin, Texas so cold showers can be actually quite nice after the scorching heat of the southern United States. Nonetheless, you can even do this in colder climates by doing rigorous exercise or working up some sweat before you get in. It’s a great way to cool off and it can also help prevent muscle soreness and fatigue after heavy weight lifting sessions.
Focus on your breath – you’re going to get panicked, but it will only make things worse. Taking a cold shower is like quicksand. The faster you can accept what is happening and embrace it, the faster you can recover from the shock. This is one of the reasons I find cold shower therapy to be incredibly meditative. With maximum stimulation all around you, it is your job to maintain a steady focus and calmness with your breath and your focus. It helps to show how much you can actually block out with your mental capabilities. Now think about using this in an uncomfortable setting outside of the shower. Pretty helpful, huh?
What Are You Waiting For?
If you are dedicated to your aspirations and goals, taking a cold shower has profound tangible and mental benefits. Not only do you increase your physical health by taking cold showers, but you will build mental toughness in the face of extreme discomfort. By building discomfort resistance over many years, you will be ready when you need to be. Whether you are an athlete or an entrepreneur or anything that requires you to face and conquer fear, a cold shower is an easy win in the right direction.
What do you think? Let me know your thoughts in the comments and report back to me if you have tried it! Use something else to make you uncomfortable?
This is a post by Mansal Denton who is the primary writer for The Hacked Mind.