Years ago, if I would’ve read the title of this post, my immediate reaction would have been, “There’s no way I’m gonna take cold showers!” I have always loved hot showers, really hot. I would let the hot water run down my back and it was one of the most relaxing parts of my day. I was a huge fan of the soothing power of a hot shower. How wrong I was. Today, I enjoy cold showers much more. Cold showers can change your life, but in more ways than you might think.
When I take a cold shower, I feel much healthier, more invigorated and stronger (mentally and physically). I have noticably more of energy throughout the day. The health benefits of cold showers are well documented (such as improving immunity and circulation, promoting weight loss, lowering blood pressure, clearing blocked arteries, making hair shinier and skin healthier, increasing the metabolism, easing stress and depression, relieving muscle soreness and increasing sperm count and motility). Convinced yet?
In any case, I’m not going to try to make the case for the physical health benefits of taking cold showers. You can find that information all over the internet.
All of those physical effects can certainly change your life significantly, but in my experience, switching to cold showers had a separate, more profound effect on my life. It gave me a clear blueprint for self-development. Let me explain.
After reading about the health benefits of cold showers, I decided to give them a try. I failed miserably for 3-4 times. I would turn the hot water on and slowly make it colder and colder (just like James Bond did). After a few seconds, I’d tell myself this was stupid and gave a sigh of relief as the steam from the hot water once again rose around me. After basically giving up on taking cold showers, one day, the question popped into my head, “What’s wrong with me? I can’t even take a measly cold shower?” I put the shower on ice cold, no heat at all, jumped in and very soon said, “Forget this! I do not want to do this!”
Weeks later, when I had forgotten all about taking cold showers, I read about the common practice in Nordic countries of having babies take naps outside in the winter. I thought to myself, “Ok, that’s it. It’s time for me to take an ice cold shower! If a baby can nap outside in the Nordic winter, I can take a cold shower.”
I jumped in the shower, turned it all the way cold and the shock to my body caused me to immediately breathe deeply as the icy water poured over me. I showered as fast as I could, just trying to get it over with. However, after about two minutes, I noticed something interesting. My breathing had calmed down and the cold water didn’t feel as cold as it had at first. “Of course,” I thought, “My body is already getting used to it.” I slowed down and, rather than rushing the shower, simply paid attention to how I felt. It suddenly became easier.
After finishing the shower I felt more invigorated than I had in a long time, partly because of the physically energizing effects of cold showers, but mostly because I had powered through. I realized two things: 1) it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was and 2) I was tougher than I gave myself credit for.
Not only was the cold shower really not that bad, the worst part was everything leading up to it: all the fear and negative self-talk that preceded it. That was way more uncomfortable than the actual shower! This small victory propelled me on to further successes and set me off on a path of further self-development and strengthening of my will. That day, I experienced a mental shift. I felt more in control of myself. And from then on, I began to exert more and more control over myself and my life.
There are two other valuable insights I gained from this experiment in taking cold showers (hence the “blueprint for self-development” I mentioned above). One I call “The Wisdom of Nike”. I am referring to their slogan “Just Do It.” If you want to get yourself to take a cold shower (or to take any other sort of action), ponder this slogan very carefully. Once you know you should do something, there is no longer any need to think about it. Quit weighing the pros and cons, stop over-thinking it and do not give yourself a chance to backtrack. Make a decision and follow through (just do it!).
The other insight I gained is what I call the “Self-Development Tipping Point”. This is the point where the new behavior you are trying to create becomes more enjoyable than the old one. This is when the new behavior has stuck. Allow me to clarify.
The first few cold showers were difficult for me. After about a week of taking cold showers, I was particularly tired one evening and decided to go easy on myself and reward myself with a nice, hot shower. However, after a couple minutes I realized that I actually didn’t want to take a hot shower, I wanted a cold one. I knew how the hot shower would make me feel and I knew how the cold shower would too. I now preferred taking cold showers. I turned off the hot water, enjoyed the cold water and never turned back. That was the tipping point where I no longer had to work to create or maintain the new behavior.
Another example of a “Self-Development Tipping Point” is when I learned how to become an early riser. After being a notorious late riser for all my life, I decided to change. Eventually, there was a point where I realized that I preferred to wake up early and, from there, the new behavior became self-reinforcing.
So, if you would like to change a behavior of yours, here is a blueprint for making the change stick. Don’t let the simplicity fool you, it’ll work.
1) Decide what you want to change and what initial actions you will take. As Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.”
2) Just do it. Take action. Get to work.
3) Persist, and adjust your method as necessary, until you reach the tipping point. From there, it’s smooth sailing!