By Adam J. Pearson
Want to make a small change to your lifestyle that can, without any exaggeration at all, change your whole life? It won’t even cost you a dime. You won’t have to go somewhere far away. You won’t even have to change your diet.
All you have to do is take cold showers. Seriously.
This is how James Bond did it in Ian Fleming’s Bond novels and this is how I like to do it as well:
First thing in the morning, I like to start with hot water for cleaning purposes, but then drop the heat and go colder and colder until it’s borderline ice-water. Then stand there under the freezing water. Lean into the cold and really feel it. Be fully present with it. (You can also start straight from cold; that’s a more hardcore practice, but you don’t have to start there).
I mean this in all seriousness. Cold showers are absolutely awesome. They don’t feel that way, especially at first, but the things they can do for your life are nothing short of spectacular.
What are the benefits of doing this crazy, uncomfortable, counter-intuitive thing every morning, you ask? Here are 7:
(1) It jars your whole system awake when you’re drowsy in the morning without requiring the slightest bit of caffeine.
(2) It teaches you how to practice one of the most central principles to psychology and social work, namely: “lean into discomfort.” At first, your body will jerk back from the cold water like a hand from a hot stove. After a few weeks, though, you won’t even wince as the temperature plummets. You’ll breathe in and lean into the cold without flinching.
(3) It toughens you up against cold temperatures. While everyone else around you is complaining about the cold, you’ll be comfortable.
(4) It builds your willpower. It takes guts to do this again and again, day after day. It takes will. And the more you do it, the more you will fortify your will. And if you can will yourself to do this one thing, how much harder can it be to will yourself to do the other things you yearn to do?
(5) It makes you more comfortable with uncomfortable situations in daily life. It sounds like a paradox, but it’s true. You’ll be more able to walk towards an uncomfortable situation without wincing or pulling away. The reaction to the shower trains you for your reaction to the events in your life outside of the shower.
(6) It pumps you up and builds your inner strength and courage. The shock of freezing cold water in the morning makes you feel pumped. After a week, you’ll go into that shower with the attitude “bring it on!” Over time, you’ll start to carry that attitude into your life after the shower. Implicit in that open, ready, mentality is a great deal of strength and a great deal of courage.
(7) It makes you less dependent upon being comfortable, which will actually make you feel more appreciative, more grateful, and a little more joyful. After a few weeks, you will find that you no longer NEED to be physically comfortable at all. That culturally conditioned ‘need’ will drop out of your system.
Let me explain this last point a little. This one little lifestyle change will give you an edge on the vast multitudes of people who need to feel pampered and comfortable and can’t handle the slightest inconvenience without complaining.
You won’t be a complainer. In fact, you may even find less to complain about in daily life. Because after starting your day with this ordeal, the rest of what you will encounter will suddenly seem a little easier to deal with. You will notice that you start to appreciate little things in your life a little more. And that appreciation builds gratitude, which in turn builds joy. Moreover, when you *are* comfortable and cozy throughout your day, you’ll appreciate that even more than you did before too because it will contrast with the discomfort you willingly experience every morning.
So try cold showers, I dare you. Try them for two weeks, or better yet, a month. Take the Cold Shower Challenge. And watch your life evolve.
If you want to read more about the powerful benefits of “cold shower therapy,” see this fantastic article. The authors, Brett and Kate McKay describe 7 additional health benefits of cold showers:
“Improves circulation. Good blood circulation is vital for overall cardiovascular health. Healthy blood circulation also speeds up recovery time from strenuous exercises and work. Alternating between hot and cold water while you shower is an easy way to improve your circulation. Cold water causes your blood to move to your organs to keep them warm. Warm water reverses the effect by causing the blood to move towards the surface of the skin. Cold shower proponents argue that stimulating the circulatory system in this way keeps them healthier and younger looking than their hot water-loving counterparts.
Relieves depression. Lots of great men from history suffered bouts of depression. Henry David Thoreau is one such man. But perhaps Thoreau’s baths in chilly Walden Pond helped keep his black dog at bay. Research at the Department of Radiation Oncology at Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine indicates that short cold showers may stimulate the brain’s “blue spot”– the brain’s primary source of noradrenaline — a chemical that could help mitigate depression. I guess a bout of the blues isn’t so bad after all.
Keeps skin and hair healthy. Hot water dries out skin and hair. If you want to avoid an irritating itch and ashy elbows, turn down the temperature of your showers. Also, cold water can make your manly mane look shinier and your skin look healthier by closing up your cuticles and pores.
Strengthens immunity. According to a study done in 1993 by the Thrombosis Research Institute in England, individuals who took daily cold showers saw an increase in the number of virus fighting white blood cells compared to individuals who took hot showers. Researchers believe that the increased metabolic rate, which results from the body’s attempt to warm itself up, activates the immune system and releases more white blood cells in response.
Increases testosterone. (…) The study by the Thrombosis Research Institute cited above showed that cold water showers actually increase testosterone production in men. Increased testosterone levels not only boost a man’s libido, but also his overall strength and energy level.
Increases fertility. Trying to become a dad? Cold showers are good for your little swimmers. Your testes aren’t meant to get too hot; that’s why they hang outside your body. Sperm counts decrease when the temperature of a man’s testes increases. Experiments done in the 1950s showed that hot baths were an effective contraceptive. Men who took a 30 minute hot bath every other day for 3 weeks were infertile for the next six months. More recently, the University of California at San Francisco did a study with men who were exposed to 30 minutes of “wet heat” (hot baths and such) a week. When the men cut this exposure out, their sperm count went up by 491%, and their sperm’s motility improved as well. While switching from a hot to cold shower may not have as dramatic an effect, if you’re trying to create some progeny, it surely won’t hurt.
Increases energy and well-being. Every time I end a shower with cold water, I leave feeling invigorated and energized. Your heart starts pumping, and the rush of blood through your body helps shake off the lethargy of the previous night’s sleep. For me, the spike in energy lasts several hours. It’s almost like drinking a can of Diet Mountain Dew, minus the aspartame. And while it hasn’t been studied, many people swear that cold showers are a surefire stress reducer. I’m a believer.”