Morning cold showers
Monday to Friday, I take cold showers.
The first half of 2020 was a difficult period for me — among other things — I went through economic struggles and some drama related to my thesis work.
As soon as I opened my eyes every morning, I felt miserable. During the day, I ruminated on all sorts of negative thoughts. I blame myself for all the “wrong” decisions I had made — one of them was to quit my fancy job at home enroll in grad school on the other side of the Atlantic, or that's what I told myself at the time. I had a hard time focusing on the task in front of me, and my lack of productivity caused the anxiety to build up.
A few years back I had read about Wim Hof, the Dutch snowman. As I was running out of ideas, I gave _ Wim Hof's method_ a try. And it helped. A lot.
Using his breathing exercises as preparation, I forced myself to take morning cold showers every day. I hated it, every time. But stuck to it. I practised his breathing exercises throughout the day as well.
What happened next
The struggle of those days did not disappear completely but somehow helped. And everything went well in the end.
This cold shock therapy became a permanent habit. I tweaked my initial approach though. Now, I allow myself to take warm showers on weekends. It feels luxurious, it is part of what makes a weekend different for me.
It became easier with time, but I wouldn't call it enjoyable. I kind of hate cold water. Those few seconds before jumping into it I hear this voice inside my head saying: “Why the hell am I doing this?” Before this dubious voice can answer its own question, I'm already shivering under the showerhead. The body adjusts pretty quick. It helps to be aware of your breathing while transitioning to a “stable state” in the cold, then it is no big deal.
Why I keep doing it
I'll skip the health benefits of enduring cold, information is easy to find on the Internet if you're interested — Wim Hof's feats had triggered a lot of research in this area by the way. A non-exhaustive list is:
- It short-circuit negative thoughts. Even when a myriad of negative thoughts was bouncing inside my head, the cold water causes a sort of short-circuit in my body-mind; it is something that can't be ignored. No other thoughts can occupy my mind at the same time. This experience creates a sort of space in between that dissipate the paralysing power of the negative thoughts that besiege my mind.
- A first quick win to start the day. When I'm going through a dark period, I feel so fucked up as soon as I open my eyes; the feeling sometimes paralyzes me. Besides any claimed physical benefits of taking a cold shower, the psychological parties worth it in and of itself. As mentioned earlier, I really dislike cold water. Doing this first in the morning gives me a sense of accomplishment that is empowering.
- Trains your body-mind to endure discomfort. I believe most of our current issues as a society come from our comfortable lifestyle. People —myself included— might get really angry if you take away a bit of comfort from their lives. A cold shower is a simple discomfort training. In my case, it triggered many other helpful habits.
- You don't crave that morning coffee. I love coffee. But there is a big difference between enjoying and need something. A cold shower wakes me up, a hot cup of coffee is not required to start my day — I can get my first coffee mid-morning, not a problem.
And by the way, it's free.
I would recommend it to anyone who is feeling a bit down and running out of ideas to get better. Ideally, as part of a morning routine in which you wake up at the same time every day.
This isn't yet another “novel” idea coming from the wellness industry. Nobody is profiting from you taking a cold shower every morning — well, you might even save some money if it becomes a permanent habit.