The invigoration of a cold shower is hard to ignore. While it may be something you love to hate, cold showers have been found to boost energy, focus, vitality and wellbeing. It won’d do harm and it might make you feel great. Definitely something worth considering.
The scientific, undoubtable, research-study evidence on this one is less solid than I generally like before I share something, however the theories and anecdotal evidence are too powerful to ignore.
Many people, myself included, report almost an addictive invigoration from taking cold showers. There are a few different claims on the health benefits, which I’ll detail later, but even if these benefits don’t occur, the energy boost you get alone is worth the effort. The mental aspects of daily cold showers are awesome. Plenty of research shows that people who get comfortable with discomfort find greater success in business and life in general. A cold shower is a cheap, safe and easy way to get a little bit uncomfortable every day. You can train your brain to get used to discomfort.
Cold showers or cryotherapy?
I believe a distinction should be made between cold showers and extreme cold therapies such as cryotherapy. I consider ice baths and even cold plunges somewhere in the middle. The benefits of each are often frustratingly misattributed to the other methods by well-meaning bloggers. I’m a hug fan of all cold therapies for different reasons, and include cryotherapy in my lifestyle as well as cold showers. The benefits of extreme cold will be explored in a separate post; here I’m just concentrating on a free method that everyone can try at home.
At a time in my life when I felt like I had no energy, I remember hearing a throwaway mention in a podcast about a guy who found relief from grieving the death of his wife by walking into a cold lake. Something about that kind of simple peace resonated with me and, not having a cold lake nearby, the next shower I had I turned off the hot tap. From there I was hooked. I Googled and read everything I could about why rejecting a small luxury of hot water could make such a positive impact on my mental state. (The guy mentioned was Wim Hof, “The Iceman”, who is an absolute legend in the area of cold therapy, and probably the most extreme in the world.)
Do cold showers really work?
Here’s where science-driven sceptics might switch off. As I said at the beginning, I couldn’t find anything absolutely solid about what was going on, but from my own experience, and the accounts of thousands of others, something was happening. One thing I’m pretty confident with claiming is that the cold water changes your breathing and posture, and this in turn changes your internal chemistry. The first sharp jolt of cold forces you to quickly and deeply draw breath, and continue with deep breathing thereafter. Breathing exercises are well known and accepted to reduce stress.
I’m a big fan of collecting “little wins”, and the impact this has on your state of mind. Along with getting comfortable with discomfort, “conquering” a cold shower sets you up for a day of conquering challenges. Conquering a cold shower each day means I’ve already had a little win before I’ve left the house. Don’t get me wrong, I love my cold showers and look forward to them. The cold is still a physical challenge, but one I embrace. The feeling of warming up when you step out of the shower is amazing, almost like slowly coming back to life.
Other claims about cold showers, such as enhancing immunity, reducing blood pressure, decreasing pain, increasing metabolism, improving kidney function and resetting hormones do not have enough evidence for me to include them in the potential benefits. (Some of these do occur with extreme cold exposure, but I don’t believe cold showers are extreme enough to warrant the claims.) Even without exaggerated claimed benefits, I’d wholeheartedly recommend everyone give cold showers a go to see how they feel later.
Ready to give it a go?
Depending on where you live, you may want to start with semi-cold showering (so still having a little hot water in the mix while you get used to it.) I’ve found the cold water in my apartment much warmer than the cold water at my sister’s country house.
If you’re an absolute beginner, just start by finishing your shower with cold water for the first day. Before you get out, turn the hot water off (or down) and let your body chill for 30 seconds. The next day, start and finish your shower with cold water. Progress the time spent with cold each day until it joins in the middle and you’re having a full cold shower.
There’s nothing wrong with having some warm water in the middle of the shower too. I still sometimes do this and it feels like a true luxury.
My challenge to you
Have a cold, or partly cold, shower every day for 10 days. If you like it, keep it. If you don’t go back to warm showers. It won’t hurt you and it might help. That puts it in the category of “worth trying,” if you ask me.
Find what works for you and do that.