With the hourly barrage of bad news that is living in 2020, I find myself searching for new, and healthy, ways to distract myself. Its 7am in Newbridge, in the ensuite I’m going through all the typical shower rituals, even breaking out my loofah. I know this may well be the only solitary time I get all day. Why shouldn’t I take this precious time underneath the showerhead and turn it into my own personal ceremony. I deserve it, so I just grab it, pause, take a deep breath and turn it all the way to the right……. All the way to cold!
Today was my third day in a row taking a cold shower for at least 3 minutes, a challenge that I plan on trying to complete every day for a month. According to some taking a daily cold shower promises a host of perks for runners and non-runners alike, from reduced muscle soreness and inflammation to giving an energy boost (Buijze et al., 2016), makes your hair shinier and your skin smoother, even improving ones mood and immune system (Mooventhan and Nivethitha, 2014; Shevchuk, 2008). Stepping into the icy blast of blast of a freezing cold shower is a raw experience that disturbs you mentally even before it begins, and physically when you experience it. The first minute is the worst, the cold is so jarring, so painful my whole body stings as each droplet stabs my bare skin, I’d like to be able to say the rest of the three minutes is bearable, its not!
I haven’t had any joyous experience yet, but I’ve discovered that the biggest benefit I get from taking cold showers isn’t any of the wonderful things listed above (I’ve started to notice many of them, though). The thing that most draws me to the cold water is also the thing that most repels me: It’s really hard to do. Regularly taking cold showers exposes the body to a small amount of stress, which leads to a process called hardening – What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger” – the scientific name for this is hormesis. This means that the nervous system gradually gets used to handling moderate levels of stress due to the positive effect from exposure to low doses of something that is otherwise negative at higher doses. Basically, anytime we force yourself to suffer a physically uncomfortable situation it forces us to toughen up.
It’s certainly a daunting thought to have a cold shower instead of a nice hot one but it there is rewards. It gives a wonderful feeling of accomplishment, gives the body numerous health benefits but even now as I write this at nine o’clock in the evening I’m dreading the thoughts of tomorrows 3 minutes. I know it will be beneficial and that I’ll be glad I did it right afterward. And yet, the gap between knowing I want to (and should) take the cold shower and actually doing it, is colossal . But remembering the Mark Twain quote “If it’s your job to eat a live frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And If it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first”. So the rest of the day can only get better after a cold shower, just grab your knob and twist!
Buijze, G. A., Sierevelt, I. N., van der Heijden, B. C., Dijkgraaf, M. G. and Frings-Dresen, M. H. (2016) ‘The Effect of Cold Showering on Health and Work: A Randomized Controlled Trial’, PLoS One, 11(9), pp. e0161749.
Mooventhan, A. and Nivethitha, L. (2014) ‘Scientific evidence-based effects of hydrotherapy on various systems of the body’, N Am J Med Sci, 6(5), pp. 199-209.
Shevchuk, N. A. (2008) ‘Adapted cold shower as a potential treatment for depression’, Medical Hypotheses, 70(5), pp. 995-1001.