in Life Optimization

Taking Cold Showers and Loving It

I’ve been taking cold showers exclusively for about a month now, and I think I’m going to continue them ad nausem. In fact, I have come to look forward to them, even though the experience itself it about as unpleasant as you can get. The word ‘cold’ doesn’t begin to describe this ordeal. Every morning, I drag myself out of bed into the shower, turn the faucet as far to the right as it will go, take a deep breath, and then step in to soap up and rinse off. The freezing cold never fails to knock my breath out at first (which taught me how to breathe well), and while I might not be 100% under the pour the whole time, it’s still enough that most sessions don’t last more than 90 seconds before I finish soaping up and step out shivering.

If it sounds miserable, that’s because it is, but it’s also better for my schedule and the environment. I spend less time getting ready in the morning and use far less water, both of which are net positives. I used to curl up into a fetal ball under a sauna-like stream back in the day just to delay starting the day for real before – now I’m in and out in no time, completely awake and alert. Warm showers are enjoyable, but are they really that much more fun than all the other things you could be doing? I don’t think so – it’s just an diverted attempt to get back into your warm safe bed.

There’s all sorts of dubious research out there about how cold showers raise your testosterone level, burn fat, and  other health benefits. Whether or not they’re all true, I have come to love cold showers for 3 reasons only: it wakes me the hell up, I start the day with success, and it strengthens my ability to bear discomfort.

Fully Awake:
No matter how cognizant I am getting into a cold shower, you better believe that I come out of it fully awake. Indeed, I think the body goes into fight/flight mode when presented with such circumstances – my heart is racing, my eyes are open wider, and the part of me that wants to crawl back into bed has disappeared entirely. This alone is a huge boon for a non-morning person like me – I find this a much healthier alternative to caffeine.

A Sense of Success:
Stepping into the icy torrent is the archetypical self imposed daily challenge (SIDCHA); an objectively difficult task introduced into your daily routine. Once you truly commit, you can’t not do them, even though they’re hard every time you face them, and thus you come out of them feeling like a god. It’s a great feeling to walk out the door with one success already in my belt, and I’ve found myself goading myself the night before “Think you’ll chicken out tomorrow? Hell no.”

Accept discomfort:
SIDCHA’s also strengthen your ability to endure discomfort, which is a muscle just like a physical ones – meaning it gets stronger the more you use it. Why would you want to be okay with discomfort? Well, life sucks sometimes, and it just so happens that most rewarding and constructive things in life aren’t easy. The best lives happen entirely outside of your comfort zone, and a cold shower is a simple way to bring the discomfort zone into your daily routine.

While taking a cold shower is nowhere are difficult as starting a company or supporting a family, it’s still hard! My ability to bite this particular bullet every day makes me feel confident and assured when approaching the other difficult tasks in my life, no matter what they are. It’s not quite rejection therapy, but it does the same thing – makes your self discipline stronger by attacking it in small doses, rather like a vaccine.

Cold showers have become such a daily ritual for me that I can’t imagine life without them anymore. I’m not the only one – I was first introduced to it through Joel Runyon, but many other entrepreneurs swear by it. Some critics claim that it’s rather hypocritical, as  such an easy challenge (stepping into cold water isn’t the hardest thing you could be doing to strengthen yourself), but I think that’s moot, because unlike other options, this practice is easily introduced into any first world person’s life. You may not find time to run a mile or write every day, but your schedule already includes  a shower! Just imagine how much more refreshing, environmentally friendly, and mentally empowering those unavoidable minutes of your day could be.

Try it – for real, just once. But no wimping out and turning it warm after, or starting warm and slowly going cold. I’ve found the best challenge to be working up the courage to take the step into a freezing torrent right off the bat. To those who say ‘But my warm showers are important to me!’ and think I’m ruining one of the few pleasant oasis’s a harried person might have in their day – you’re right, I am. A warm shower is a pleasurable respite. But it’s a practice that facilitates complacency and meekness at worst, and boringly clean you at best. Why not tweak it to give a net positive result rather than a simple neutral?

  • Patrick

    I know where you’re coming from on these cold showers. In the last week of UCSD they decided to say goodbye to us by turning off the hot water, and for a week it was straight cold showers.

    That being said, I totally disagree. First, if you want to save water, just turn off the water while you’re not rising. Admittedly this helps if your shower heats up quickly, but I bet yours does. Second for “waking up” I think that the dubious studies on showers are about as reliable as the dubious studies on coffee. And the latter taste way better. Ultimately this comes down to preference again, but I say why torture yourself when there’s a fresh pot on? Finally for the discipline and mental fortitude point, I believe that we have a daily amount of decision making. If I spend a part of my day every day deciding to hop into a cold shower then, dang, that’s a lot of wasted will power.

    Perhaps most importantly, there is no way that cold showers clean you as effectively. Warmth opens up your pores and allows you to scrub the dirt. My recommendation? Take warm showers but end them cold. It’ll get you clean and close up the pores, leaving them less vulnerable to dirt after the shower.