I’m fresh off of my morning workout, already breathing heavily and feeling blood course through my veins at 5:30 AM. I finish with some breathing exercises, then it’s off to the shower.
Most people, when faced with the dead of winter outside, opt for a steaming hot shower. The temptation of warm water is real, but I turn the handle to the lowest temperature setting and step inside.
Immediately I awaken again, My senses are suddenly kicked into overdrive as my body is shocked by the intense cold. I want to jump away from the water, but instead take a deep breath, and relax into the cold. It starts to feel refreshing, and I feel incredibly alive.
This is my typical morning. I have been called crazy by more than a few people for taking such unnecessarily cold showers. But as disturbing as the idea is to some, it also provokes curiosity in others. “Why do you do that to yourself?” “Don’t you enjoy a hot shower” “Can’t you be normal!”
The truth is, I do enjoy cold showers more than hot ones now, but not in the way you might expect. I’ve found that there are certain stages to taking a cold shower, and they reflect the same psychological mechanisms of anxiety.
Stage 1: Pre-Shower
This is before you even get into the shower. You turn the knob colder than you’re used to, and stand there. If you’ve never taken a cold shower before, this is the moment you must come to terms with the fact that you’re about to step into some cold ass water, and that it will be very uncomfortable. But you can’t chicken out now, and you realize you’re just delaying the inevitable by waiting. So you step inside, careful not to touch the water just yet.
Stage 2: Toe Stage
You take a half step towards the water, and you let your toes be the first thing to become wet. “Oh shit. That’s cold.” You wonder if your toes might become frost-bitten, but they won’t. So you decide to reach out an arm. “Damn. Still cold” You wonder if your body will adapt to the cold, and it will, once you take the full plunge.
Stage 3: Total Immersion
You feel like an MMA fighter about to enter the octagon. You’re giving yourself a pep talk. Maybe you’re hopping up and down a little, psyching yourself up for an all out plunge. You step into the line of fire and, yes, it’s very cold. You breathe deeply, drawing energy from the cold. You’re no longer afraid of the cold, because you’re in it. You’re experiencing your shower with complete and total awareness.
Stage 4: Post-Shower
You turn off the water and pause for a moment. You stand just a little taller now, and you breathe a little easier. You feel alive, not just from the rush of the cold, but from your ability to tolerate fear and discomfort. You see that the fear was worse than the shower itself, and that the discomfort only made you stronger. You carry that with you for the rest of your day.
Do you see what happened here? A cold shower is about much more than gaining some health benefits (which are significant). It’s about rewiring the brain and its attitude towards the unknown. The anticipation of a negative event (anxiety) is worse than the event itself. Once you’re in the thick of it, fear is replaced by the feeling of presence. You may be uncomfortable, but you’re here. That’s the beautiful thing about cold showers. Your mind is momentarily free of all thought about past or future. When you repeat the practice over time, you prove to yourself that there is nothing to be afraid of, and you spend less time worrying about the cold and more time experiencing it.
Plus, after all is done and you’ve conquered that initial cold shower, you reap a host of physical health benefits.
1. Healthier Skin
Cold Showers improve circulation by increasing the metabolic activity in your cells. When cold is felt by your body, it kicks into overdrive to bring fresh, warm blood to all of the muscles and organs to compensate. The result is that you may find your skin taking on a healthy new glow over time.
2. Increased metabolism
As mentioned above, colder temps mean more energy is needed by the body to keep it warm. This means a boost in metabolism and could reasonably aid in weight loss.
3. Immune Function
A clinical trial conducted in the Netherlands in 2016 found that people who regularly took cold showers took fewer sick days than those who did not. The reason? Cold increases leukocyte (white blood cell) activity in the body, making it more prepared to fend off illness. Some studies have even shown that cold showers can reduce the risk of certain types of cancer.
4. Reduction in Depression
Lastly, cold showers can actually make us happier. The cold water shocks the system and releases endorphins into the bloodstream, which can offer a significant mood boost.
If you’ve never tried a cold shower before, I recommend not starting too cold. Take it slow and make it a regular practice. After you get the hang of things, you can experiment with colder and colder temperatures. But even if the water isn’t ice cold, you can still get the benefits.
Let us know in the comments section if you have any experience with cold showers, or you’re just starting out. And make sure to subscribe for more content like this!
Watson, Kathryn. “Cold Shower Benefits for Your Health.” Healthline, Healthline Media, 24 Apr. 2017, www.healthline.com/health/cold-shower-benefits.