[This post is part of a series on Cold Showers. If you don’t see a Table of Contents to the left, click here to view that series, where you’ll get more value than reading just this post.]
Today I’m writing about the value of taking cold showers. Purposefully doing so can change your life more than jumping out of a plane or most other adrenaline-rush activities. You’d be amazed.
You can give yourself life-changing experiences as exhilarating as jumping out of planes or bungee jumping without all the baggage people who do those things have to do. My picture at the top of the page swimming across the Hudson River illustrates how anyone can create inspirational, life-changing activities with minimal effort. Today I’m writing about lowering the bar further.
I don’t have anything against people who get rushes from scary things like jumping out of planes or jumping off cliffs. I’ve parachuted from two planes. The first time, when my friend dragged me with her because her friend dragged her, I expected not to enjoy it but found it incredible, at least enough to do it a second time. That said…
Most adrenaline-rush activities are passive, destructive, and deprive you of the challenge of motivating yourself to do it.
Despite having done a couple of these adrenaline-rush activities, several problems hold me back from the mainstream ones. There are better alternatives for most purposes.
- They are big ordeals removed from your regular life, limiting what they do for you. You usually have to
- Plan around them.
- Travel far for them.
- Pay a lot for them.
- They pollute.
- Flying a plane burns a lot of fossil fuel.
- Driving to get there burns a lot of fossil fuel.
- I love skiing, but running businesses in the snow seems to use a lot of energy and require cutting down a lot of trees.
- They coddle you.
- You have to sign crazy legal forms.
- You have to wear all sorts of safety harnesses.
- You have to do exactly what they say exactly how they say.
- The activities become passive.
- While you physically participate, you don’t actively decide anything once you start. They take care of everything for you.
- They’re expensive.
These activities don’t seem that harmonious with nature. They seem to me contrived — not much different than riding a roller coaster. I like roller coasters. Why not just ride them and save yourself the effort and the risk of fooling yourself that you’re doing something different?
There are better alternatives for most purposes
The big activity that comes to mind as superior in almost every way for most purposes is the one last major skill I want to learn and activity I want to experience: surfing. I can’t say much about it since I’ve only tried twice and both times there were almost no waves. But I think if you live by a beach with great waves and can surf easily, you’re achieving the goals most people shoot for with the adrenaline-rush activities they plan and pay for people to give them, except you do it yourself.
Competitive sports like Ultimate at the national level qualify. Casual pick-up games might, depending on your standards.
Individual sports like rock climbing, gymnastics, and a few others qualify.
Still, it’s hard to get a team together and most people don’t live near great surfing beaches or mountains to climb.
You can simplify and get yet more with almost no effort
But you can do better without making a big deal even if you don’t live near a surfing beach or have a team to join.
Swimming across the Hudson River has none of the downsides I bulleted above, yet gives you the big elements that I think give the value of the adrenaline-rush activities
- You choose to do it.
- You already have all the equipment to do it. Most cities are on bodies of water.
- You risk dying (you can mitigate this risk with friends and boats).
I can’t overstate the importance of your choosing to do the dangerous part as opposed to letting it happen to you.
I’m writing today because I’ve been doing another life-changing activity you don’t even have to leave your home for. It even saves energy for most people. And you can do it every day.
Longtime readers may recall that last year in Shanghai I started trying out cold showers. I started it because in the apartment I stayed in the water took three minutes to get hot and I didn’t feel comfortable wasting that much water. I continued it because of the emotional skills it developed. That’s why I titled that post as an exercise in emotional skills and willpower, “An exercise in doing what you have to even when you don’t want to“.
Since returning home, where the shower gets warm faster, I switched to standing in the shower first, then turning on the water and getting about ten seconds of cold.
Lately I’ve been taking full showers with only cold water. I read a few of the posts below, found their descriptions of the experience consistent with what I like in life, and went for it. I was surprised at how invigorating and awesome I felt after a full cold shower. And how trivial doing it was.
I should clarify two things in the last paragraph. First, I found in those posts many health claims about cold showers. None seemed credible to me — all spurious talk about waking up all the cells in your body and boosting your immune system. However healthy cold showers are, nobody could back up their claims. But they don’t need to. The experience is awesome anyway. Second, while the physical actions of taking a cold shower barely differ from taking a warm shower, emotionally and mentally it’s totally different, which is the point. It exercises your mind like lifting weights or running sprints exercises your body. Your mind plays tricks on you to keep you from getting into a cold shower.
After you do it, you realize it’s not nearly as painful or difficult as you thought — that is, when you develop the fortitude to experience it without allowing yourself to associate unpleasantness with badness. It’s a physical sensation, that’s all. You can to make of it what you want, a great skill to develop, applicable to many parts of life. What you gain in emotional skill far exceeds the physical discomfort. Read my series on willpower to see the value of those skills across many areas in life.
Taking cold showers seems to have many of the characteristics of burpees.
- You don’t want to do it before, but feel awesome after. I can’t imagine walking out of a cold shower not feeling invigorated, refreshed, awake, and smiling.
- It forces you to decide to do it. You have to use your willpower.
- It requires no equipment.
- Little risk of injury.
- It instills discipline.
- You can do it while traveling.
If the temperature of the water I’m showering in is the temperature of the water my building heats to make hot water, I’m polluting more than I thought when I take a hot shower.
Words to inspire and help you start
First, if wealth is not how much you have but how little you need, then taking cold showers makes you wealthy, by reducing your need for something external.
Also, check out these posts from people who took cold showers every day for extended periods
- Cold Shower Therapy Guide
- I’m The Bada** Who’s Been Taking Cold Showers for 600 Days
- Lessons from a Year of Cold Showers
- Cold Showers, Discipline and Some Other Really Awesome Stuff
- Cold Shower Therapy = Insanity?
- Just a Little Bit Crazy for Cold Showers
- Self-Sabotaging Fears, Kevin Spacey and Cold Shower Therapy
- Video: Cold Showers – Start Your Day The Right Way
- Video: What Does Cold Shower Therapy Actually Do?
- Video: 3 Health Benefits of Cold Showers & Cold Shower Therapy
Anyway, I don’t think I’ll take only cold showers for the rest of my life, but I expect to take a lot of them.
Learn to make Meaningful Connections
with a simple, effective exercise from my book, Leadership Step by Step.
- Step by step instructions
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