As a self-experimenter, I know the trajectory of taking on a new challenge. It’s usually hard in the beginning and sticking to it is a challenge. But as the days roll by it gets more natural till it becomes a habit. Not with this one. Nope. It was just as bit as hard on the 50th day as it was on the first. But man I fucking loved it.
I know a lot of you are saying, well, I take cold showers every day. I bet you do. I did too. But then I moved to Sweden. And things changed. Quickly. Nice long hot showers became a daily routine. Hotter the better. Winters here are a bit different from the one I was used to in Bangalore.
Then I found The ICEMAN. Wim Hoff is a fascinating character. He holds multiple world records for feats under extreme weather conditions. The man is insane. So am i. I was hooked, and I had to try it.
So why cold therapy. For starters, cold stress reduces inflammation in the body. Hence athletes finish their intense training sessions with an ice bath.
Cold therapy has shown to:
- Strengthens the immune system.
- Balances hormone levels.
- Increased norepinephrine.
- Increased anti-inflammatory cytokines (IL-10).
- Decreased pro-inflammatory cytokines (TNF-alpha).
- Improves deep sleep.
- Relaxes the muscles.
- Results in fat loss.
- Helps release of endorphins naturally which elevates mood and mental well being.
Did you know that cold therapy was used to treat Vincent Van Gogh’s depression? Maybe it’s not the best example but just some history for you.
So I tried it. Started off with cold showers at the end of my regular showers. For a half a minute at first, then a minute, then I stood there as long as possible till I couldn’t feel my ears anymore. It was the hardest thing I have ever done.
Here’s what I learned from this experiment.
- The first plunge is the hardest: It’s like being woken by an electric shock. You gasp for breath. It helps if you hold your breath, follow the 5-second rule and take the plunge.
- Energy overdose: Have you ever woken up after a good 8 hours of sleep, downed 2 expressos, did 20 jumping jacks and sat down to work? Yeah, me neither. But I think that’s what it would feel like. I was so energized that I could not fall asleep.
- Fast Recovery: These cold showers alleviated my sore muscles after an intense workout. It felt less sore than usual and felt I didn’t need a day off to recover. I suffer from joint pains sometimes, and I really felt cold showers helped. A lot.
- Cold beats Cold: A lot of people think that you catch a cold by being out in the cold. Not true. People also believe cold showers in the winter will give you pneumonia. Basically, most people are idiots. I didn’t fall sick once, and I never felt better. Also, after taking a cold shower, the outside weather doesn’t bother you much. You won’t feel the need to curl under 5 blankets even though it’s -5 outside.
- Better mood: In general, after every cold shower, i felt insanely good. I was in a much better mood. I’m not sure if it’s because of the release of endorphins, boost in energy or the general feeling of freshness, but I never once felt low after a cold shower.It could also be because of my next point.
- Conquer the world: There’s a scientific study which shows that completing small tasks repeatedly that you once thought was hard can significantly improve your motivation to take on bigger challenges. Have you ever wanted to just lay in bed but you pushed yourself to go to the gym or get some important work done or study for an exam? Just the fact that you did it made you feel great, didn’t it? That’s what cold showers did to me. It was a morale booster. That I didn’t give in to my lizard brain and run away. Tackling this small challenge acted as a motivator for bigger tasks the whole day.
- It never gets easier: It was just as hard on the 50th day as it was on the first. My mind would try all sorts of tricks. I need just as much of willpower every single day as I needed on the first day I tried it.
And that’s my biggest takeaway. That when something is hard, our lizard brain will do everything in its power to prevent us from doing it. It’s our old survival flight instincts. If something as simple as a cold shower freaks us out so much then how many tasks in a day do we ignore just because it’s hard? How times in a day do we take the easy, warm, familiar and comfortable route out? What would happen if we took the harder options instead? How much would we change, how much would we grow and what would we achieve if we stopped taking the easy way out and took the harder route instead?
5…4….3….2….1…Take the plunge.