At first, it was painful.
I remember the first few days. Gritting my teeth. I had taken warm showers all my life, after all.
(Quick side note: I would like to express my sincerest gratitude to those who have made that possible. For most of human history, most people had no access to a shower. My friends at Wikipedia claim the first modern shower was patented in 1767 by an English man named William Feetham. Even in today’s day and age, I am incredibly fortunate to have access to hot water.)
But I was doing a challenge (Phase 1 of the Live Hard Program). And part of that challenge was for 30 days straight, you need to take a cold shower for five minutes.
I knew it would suck. I was hesitant to do it. But I gritted my teeth and embraced the suck.
After the 30 days were up, I continued to take cold showers.
You might be asking…
I mean, it’s a fair question. No one’s forcing me to do it. I’m certainly not doing it so I can write about on the Internet (although it might seem that way).
I continue to do it for one main reason:
Over the 30 days of the challenge, I set a standard for myself. By not taking a cold shower, when I easily could, would be letting the highest version of myself down.
Below is my experience each time I go through a cold shower.
Before I Get In The Shower
Here’s what I do: I put a timer on for five minutes, 10 seconds. (The ten seconds so I can press start and then get myself into the water.)
I turn the water as cold as it will possibly go. Freezing.
If I don’t act quickly, my weaker mind will convince me not to take the cold shower.
So without thinking, I jump in…
The First Few Seconds
Your body goes into flight or fight.
The first few seconds are the most difficult.
Even when you’re expecting cold water, your body is shocked. And it’s not just the first few seconds in general. It’s the first few seconds of any body part that hasn’t been exposed to the water.
I typically go in face first. I will hold my face on the water, my chest on the water. This makes it easier. But then when I turn around and have my back against the water, you get that same shock.
Eventually, the shock subsides.
Control the Breathing
Here’s what have gotten easier about the cold showers: I’ve learned that the game is to control your breathing.
No amount of reading about the controlling your breathing will do it justice. It’s something you have to experience for yourself. But once you master this element, all of a sudden, the cold shower doesn’t become as difficult.
The Last Minute or Two
Eventually, my body becomes numb to the cold.
I’ve noticed this happens in the last minute or two. Your body and mind just accept that this is the new normal.
Release The Tension With Warm Water
This is my reward. After five full minutes, I turn the water on warm. Sometimes, I will reset the timer for five minutes to make sure I don’t overstay my welcome in the warm. Sometimes, I just let it ride.
In the warm water, I am particularly clearheaded.
Use Hardships of Decades Past to Fuel Your Growth
When I first started these showers, this is what I thought of:
The Holocaust. World War I. World War II.
Horrible atrocities. Mass casualties. Losing loved ones.
Anyone who lived during this time would laugh at me for struggling through a five minute cold shower – probably because they had to deal with cold showers on top of whatever they were going through.
If your ancestors could go through some really horrific stuff, you can take a five minute cold shower.
Convince Yourself To Start
The hardest part is always convincing myself to get in the shower.
Once I’m in the shower, I’m an object in motion. There’s no stopping me from finishing that five minutes. Once you start a task, it becomes easy.
It’ll Get Easier, Not Easy
Hard things get easier the more you do them.
Taking a cold shower on day 90 was infinitely different than day 1. But just because something gets easier, doesn’t mean it gets easy.
No one is forcing me to get in that shower.
Use Linking to Create a Trigger
Pressing that start button on the timer means it’s time to get in the water. I didn’t have a choice at that point. Because I don’t have to think about getting in the water, it makes it easy for me for me to go. I have linked starting the timer to getting in the water for five minutes. Pressing that timer is “easy,” getting in that water is difficult.
Doing Hard Things Gives You Confidence
If you’re not doing difficult things on a daily basis, you absolutely need to. Because doing these difficult tasks will give you confidence. It could be something physical (distance running, weight lifting), it could be something mental (reading a challenging book), it could be something spiritual (meditating for 60 minutes a day). We are only happy to the extent we are pushing ourselves, doing challenging tasks, and becoming the person we want to be.
Use A Reward
The warm water at the end of the five minutes acts as my reward. The warm water feels so much better when I’ve earned it. I’ve taken regular warm showers before and they’re not the same. I’ll get in the warm water and just be upset. I didn’t earn that temperature. The warm water is effectively the reward I use to give myself a pat on the back for going through that cold.
The Ultimate Mood Changer
My brother was feeling sluggish, down, and low energy. I told him to take a cold shower for two minutes.
When he got out of the water, he was in a completely different state.
I am rarely in the same state after one of these showers as I am before it. It’s a good reminder we can change our physiology for the better by external stimuli.
Get Right Back on The Wagon
Did I take a cold shower every single day for the past three months? No.
But on the rare occasion I missed a day, I just went right back and attacked the following day. When I go back to the shower after missing one day, it is always colder.
This is a good reminder. Doing difficult things become easier if we do them regularly. But if we stop doing them, they’ll become hard.