9 Benefits of Cold Showers & My 30 Days Experience (How to Cold Shower)
Why Cold Shower?
You must probably think I am insane. Why would I torture myself, especially when I am living in a first world country with accessibility to electricity and a water heater.
I first heard about cold showers a year ago. But I did not want to try, or should I say I tried once and stopped, because it was not enjoyable and torturous. I also prefer the comfortable, lukewarm water showering on my skin.
BUT WHO DOESN’T?
However, various wellness bloggers have praised cold showers for giving them many benefits. One famous example is Wim Hof, “The Iceman”, who holds 26 world records, including the longest ice bath, and running a half marathon above the Arctic circle barefoot.
Most people would rather choose to be in their comfort zone than face challenges. The journey of self-improvement is what brought me to try cold showers again.
When I set out to take cold showers for 30 days, I wasn't looking at achieving the next great feat of mankind. I just simply wanted to get myself out of my comfort zone. While stability can be good, too much of it limits our growth. I needed something to throw me off balance and what better way to do that than to face something that I hate the most, which is the cold.
This time, it is going to be a significant period of time so I can actually notice the benefits and changes throughout this 30-day experiment. I'm also keen on finding out whether taking a cold shower will have an impact on my life and if it is worth the torture.
Benefits of Cold Shower
1. Stronger immune system
Scientific studies have found that the shock of cold water in the bloodstream stimulates leukocytes in the body. These white blood cells help protect the body against infections.
This study showed how 8 days of cold shower makes the body more resistant to tumours.
Another study showed that people who take cold showers for 30 days consecutively called in sick for work less.
2. Reduced stress levels & depression
Each time you take a cold shower imposes a small amount of stress on your body, which could lead to a process called hardening. Over time, your nervous system gets used to handle greater and greater levels of stress. The hardening process also helps to keep your cool when life faces you with stressful or difficult situations. Things people say that might hurt you in the past no longer affects you or as much now.
Depression has been on the rise and one holistic way of treating depression is by taking cold showers. This clinical trial showed that taking a 5-min cold shower once or twice daily reduces the symptoms of depression effectively. At the end of a cold shower, you just feel so good due to the endorphin rush.
3. Increased willpower & discipline
Let’s face it, taking cold showers is tough. If it was that easy and enjoyable, everyone would be doing it. It takes a strong mind to endure the cold for extended periods of time.
When you are in the cold shower, your body is making up every excuse to get you to stop to end the suffering. But you don't. Instead, you persist and fight through it. This is powerful as it builds character. Sometimes, negative thoughts run in your head, telling you why you can't do this or that, and that you are a failure.
However, when you just embrace it and fight through this wall, you break the old conditioning of your conscious and unconscious thoughts. This allows you to create new positive patterns of thinking that will benefit you.
Therefore, cold shower teaches you to be comfortable being in uncomfortable situations. Incorporating cold showers into your daily routine strengthens your willpower, which branches out to other areas in life. You start small and end big.
4. Kill procrastination
When you turn on the shower and hesitate to step under the cold water, it trains you to “just go for it” and take the first step. It trains you to bite the bullet and go start on a project or work instead of hesitating and lying around. It also trains your mind to be a quick thinker and decisive rather than wishy-washy.
5. Improves weight loss and metabolism
Not all fat is created equally. Most of us associate fat with conditions such as obesity and heart disease. However, research has shown that brown fat plays an important role in health. Brown fat is a specific type of fat tissue that generates energy by burning calories. It is activated by exposure to the cold.
Cold showers also help boost the metabolism. Thus, cold showers can be an effective tool to burn that extra few pounds away. However, you should not rely on it to lose weight, and instead change your poor lifestyle habits.
6. More alert
When you step under the shower, the freezing cold water will shock your system and wake you up from whatever lethargy you were facing. Since the water is so cold, it will cause you to take deeper breaths of air, reducing the carbon dioxide levels in the body, as more oxygen circulates into your system and brain.
It forces you into a meditative state as you take deeper breaths and keep your mind clear since you are unable focus on anything except the cold. Therefore, cold showers keep you focus and ready to conquer the day.
7. Better Skin & Hair
It only took a week for me to notice the difference of my skin and hair quality. My skin and hair felt smoother and softer. This is because bathing with hot water has been known to dry out the skin and hair.
Another reason could be due to the improved circulation. Since the temperature of cold water is lower than our body temperature, our body has to work harder to maintain its core temperature, making our circulatory system more efficient.
8. Reduced muscle soreness
People who have completed a tough workout usually experience Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) post-workout. Cold water has regenerative properties and allows muscles to relax and repair after a tough workout.
9. Save money
Lastly, this is probably the most insignificant benefit that people care about, but you can save some money on electrical bills for not using the water heater.
How to Take A Cold Shower?
There are 2 ways to take a cold shower. I suggest you begin with the beginner level before moving on to the advance level so as to not cause too much shock to your body and fall sick.
If the initial shock of the cold water is too overwhelming for you, you can start out with lukewarm water. As you enter the shower area, begin with lukewarm water to get yourself comfortable for about 1-2 minutes. Next, gradually turn down the temperature of the water lower and lower over the next 2mins. Finally, end off the shower with the coldest setting of temperature available. This gives your body the chance to gradually get used to the cold acclimatisation.
Over time, slightly lower the beginning temperature you start off with.
TURN UP THE COLD. All the way to the coldest temperature possible. If you are like me, you will hesitate getting under the shower. A trick I use is the countdown method. I count: “3… 2… 1”, and I jump in. Then, just stay in there and keep at that lowest temperature for 5 mins or till the end of your bath time. You start cold, and end cold.
My 30-Day Cold Shower Experience (Advance Level)
As I stepped into the shower area, I asked myself what is the purpose of doing this. But it is all for self-improvement, and testing out theories to see if the benefits claimed by others are true. I turned on the cold water at full blast, but hesitated to step under the freezing cold water. I was thinking of starting the beginner way, but I was impatient and wanted to experience the maximum benefits quickly. Hence, I decided to go for the advance way.
After waiting and wasting water for a good 30 seconds (which felt like forever by the way), I took the leap of faith and got under the cold water. Cold showers put you in a panic attack to the point where you have no choice but to take the stress. It forces you to take the coldness while breathing at the same time, while controlling your breath.
I shivered as I battled the cold and grit my teeth. I felt like I was having a panic attack and was practically hyper-ventilating from the shock of the freezing cold water. It was not fun at all. My breathing started to normalise after about a minute or two. Then, I started shampooing and soaping up my body before washing everything off with cold water once again.
I turn off the water and towel dry myself. Some days I shiver upon leaving the freezing-cold water, while other days I felt warm outside. This was probably due to the sudden change in the warmer surroundings’ room temperature. I felt REFRESHED AND ALIVE. The shock of the cold water killed my lethargy and tiredness I had earlier and woken my body up.
Over the course of the first week, the impact of initial shock decreased slightly, as well as the hesitation time before showering. By the end of the first week, I noticed softer skin and hair.
For the second week, my hesitation time reduced to about 5 seconds; a major improvement from the 30 seconds on day 1. Cold showers started to feel more like a mental thing and a routine. I also look forward to the warm cozy feeling after getting out of the shower, although I still shiver sometimes.
The hyper-ventilation feeling also reduced to about 30s compared to 2mins. There were days when I had a little sinus or headache, and did not feel like doing for fear of making it worse. However, I continued with the experiment. Surprisingly, it did not make it worse, and instead I felt ok. I also realised that cold showers post-workout definitely reduced delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) the next day.
Weeks 3 & 4
Honestly, weeks 3 & 4 were rather uneventful and felt like week 2 with a slight improvement and better acclimatisation to cold water. My skin and hair also definitely felt smoother and softer.
Limitations & People Who Should Not Cold Shower
Cold showers are obviously not a magical cure-all for any condition. They should be used as a supplement to improve your way of life and health, and not as a solution to replace your medication that your doctor has prescribed for your medical condition.
If you are feeling unwell and your immune system is compromised, wait till you feel better before attempting. During this period, your body needs the rest and cold showers may put a lot of unnecessary stress and overtax your body. Lastly, people with heart conditions should avoid taking a cold shower.
After this 30-day cold shower experiment, I felt that cold showers did make me feel better. However, doing the advanced level of cold shower straight off the get-go was too much for me, and made me catch a cold a couple of times post-shower.
Therefore, I decided to continue with the beginner level of cold shower where I start off comfortably with room temperature water, before gradually turning the temperature down, and ending it off with cold water. I feel it delivers the best of both worlds. Try it for 14 days and discover the benefits for yourself. After all, the best teacher in your life is your own experience.