Jan 22, 2023

34 days of ice cold showers in the dead of winter

What I learned about leaning into discomfort

Today I took the first hot shower I’ve had in over a month. For each of the past 34 days I’ve taken only 3+ minute cold showers. Why would I torture myself like this you ask?

I started on a whim, out of sheer desperation if I’m being honest, to stave off what felt like impending SAD. I’ve heard there are some benefits to cold showers, but I didn’t even bother to do the research. After that first shower I made the commitment to see what would happen. In the end I observed these benefits:

  • An increase in my present-moment awareness - The shock of the cold water woke me up and tamped down on any mindless rumination that I might normally fall into while showering.
  • A calming effect - The cold forced me to breathe deeply, which created a calming effect that lasted for some time afterwards.
  • An increase in blood flow - Within a few minutes I could feel more heat coming off of my skin and the water felt warmer even though it definitely wasn’t.
  • Save $$$ - This one is yet to be seen, but I’m sure I’ll save at least a few dollars on my water and gas bills :).

In the process I learned:

  • Don’t hesitate. I got used to it after a few days but that didn’t mean it was always easy. I found it helpful to create a routine: Get in, point the shower head away, turn on the water, start my stopwatch and immediately jump into the stream. No anticipating!
  • Lean into the discomfort. If I jump in with the attitude of just wanting to get it over with it doesn’t do much for my mind or spirit. Embracing it fully made it feel empowering.
  • It’s not a panacea. There was a temptation to build my expectations about how this would help me and how transformational it would be, but that’s all just wishful thinking. The most important thing, I reminded myself often, is that this is a challenging goal that I can work toward.

Having taken a hot shower today, I’m actually wishing I had done a cold one, or at least turned the temperature down at the end. Writing this I feel a little too hot and more sleepy than I usually do.

I know it’s rather mundane, but it feels like an accomplishment. I was able to summon the will and discipline to do something hard for 34 days. It gives me confidence that when I’m confronted with something difficult that’s outside of my control I’ll be that much more resilient. I think that is the most important benefit of all.