I’ve recently started taking cold showers; one minute at the end of my shower experience. I mentioned this during a conversation with friends recently; they wondered what the benefit was for doing this. Taking a cold shower is quite uncomfortable. Why would I do something like that?
According to research, cold showers have physiological benefits such as improving circulation, speeding muscle recovery, and stimulating weight loss. But, they also have mental benefits, which is what we’re interested in here. Cold showers increase alertness, improve emotional resilience, and reduce stress.
One of the biggest mental training benefits, however, is observing the mind’s mental chatter. I notice my mind saying things like, “It’s wintertime so let’s not take a cold shower today.” Or, “I’m short on time today so let’s forget about the cold shower.”
These are great opportunities to develop the Witness, that part of us that is separate from the thinking mind. We can observe the mind squirm prior to a stressful experience. We take a step back to the Witness and observe the mind make excuses. Then, we do it anyway.
A Step Further
But, we don’t stop there; we take it a step further. For example, before I turn the hot water to cold water, I check in with my mind. I typically observe the mind bracing itself, and my body tensing. My mind thinks about getting it over with. This approach devalues the mental benefits. Rather, before taking action—turning on the cold water—I set an intention: I choose to focus my attention on breathing, relaxing, and enjoying it. Then I turn on the cold water. I feel it pour over me and relish the invigorating feeling it provides. It makes me feel alive.
We do the same witnessing of the mind in climbing. We observe the mental chatter and excuses prior to beginning a route. We notice the mind’s desire to escape the stress and get on the route anyway. We set an intention for how we choose to focus our attention: on The Warrior’s Way® processes. Then, we engage. We focus on breathing, relaxing and enjoying it.
Enjoying the stress is an important part of mental training. We may succeed in pushing the mind into stressful experiences, but the mind will rebel once it’s there, distracting our attention. We keep attention in the moment by our desire to be in stress. Doing that improves our ability to deal with stress. Something that is stressful—cold showers or climbing—ends up reducing our stress.
Practice Tip: Take Cold Showers
Seek the mental benefits for taking cold showers. Commit to taking a one-minute cold shower at the end of your usual shower experience. Then, observe the mind:
- Notice and identify the mind’s thoughts before you get into the shower.
- Notice and identify the mind’s thoughts before you turn the water from hot to cold.
Finally, engage the cold shower with a willingness to experience it. Breathe, relax, and enjoy it.
When you finish, you’ll feel vigor in the body and a heightened state of alertness in the mind.
This Post Has 9 Comments
Arno and team- Thank you for this. I have been following this practice for several years and can attest to its efficacy. I got the idea from Tim Ferriss in his book the for our body, and it has gained a lot of recognition from the cheerful Dutch maniac Wim Hof.
I do encourage people to try it. The mental process and paying attention to is what is important, not enduring cold water for any extreme length of time. Even Wim Hof says that is not necessary…
Hey Gordon, yes, the mindset right? Not enduring extended pain, suffering, and cold. Such is the subtlety of mental training. a
Apologies for voice transcription error: the Ferriss book title is : The Four Hour Body.
I’ve been doing this for over 30 years. Thanks for the reminder to enjoy the cold water! I usually do but not sure I set the intention ahead of time.
Ah yes, remember to set that intention. Great that you’ve seen this as a valuable means for doing mental training. Keep it up. a
I needed this reminder. Ive been taking cold showers for a year or so now and within the last few months its gotten harder. I started to make it all about doing it because its “supposed to make me feel better” and i havent engaged in the stress. Im just doing it to do it and feel good that i did it. But thats not the point. Comparing it to climbing was helpful for me. I will use this attitude tomorrow and see how it goes. Thank you.
Nice Ben. Mental training gives us the opportunity to examine if we’re living the present moment to its fullest or if we’re living for a future time that’s comfortable. It’s great that you’ve been doing this practice and that you refine your mindset over time as you do it. Keep it up. a
I am a Wim Hoff fan, too!
I added a new regular practice of cold exposure in the morning while I set up to meditate. I open all the doors and windows in the great room and get a cross-breeze going. I stay in my jammies to help reduce the temptation to skip rituals and start working instead. It’s important to lean into the cold and stay relaxed (as much as possible) so my immune system benefits. I envision that happening while I shiver.
I am thinking to put an old tub in the garden for an ice dip once I get my sauna installed.
Thanks for another great lesson!
Go Andrea. Remember that as you do all this, to observe the mind squirm and try to talk you out of it. 🙂