On the Practice of Cold Exposure
"Health, Strength, Happiness - that's ours. That's our natural state."
- Wim Hof
For the past month I've been taking cold showers. And I feel incredible.
This new practice was inspired by Wim Hof AKA "the Iceman" who has continually pushed the limits of the human body over 35+ years of cold exposure training (check out his message http://www.wimhofmethod.com/, the guy bleeds love into the world).
On paper it sounds terrible, and I won't fruit the endeavor, getting through the first week was a serious struggle. Waking up in the morning smothered in cozy blankets is such a lovely feeling... so I'd lay there thinking about the cold shower that awaits, and a hanging sense of dread would cloud my thoughts. It would take me a few extra snoozes to finally get out of bed and face the music. Then I'd get in the shower and shiver while I rushed to clean myself as fast as possible and hightail it out of there. But still, when it's over and I shake out my shivers, grab my towel and dry off, there's a sense of triumph. I feel so alive. Coming out of these showers has always left me with an elated rush, similar to the "runner's high" experienced after a run.
Today, my mentality is more refined. I've adapted to look forward to the frigid waters, and even embrace them in some twisted way. The cold does inspire a righteous feeling. But it's not all about the cold. It's really about stepping beyond my self-defined comfort zone and seeing what I'm capable of. Cold exposure is just one of many ways to get there. Now that a routine has been established the cold has become a guru of sorts. A teacher. It's allowing me to get in touch with myself on a previously undefined level. I'm able to identify the limits of what I can take, along with the strengthened confidence to push that limit to new heights.
Through the trying mornings of discomfort a habit has been formed, and whether or not I'll continue this forever is up for debate, but I'm certain that there's something magical about this practice that goes beyond words. You'll have to experience it for yourself.
Here's what I've gathered so far from this experiment:
There's no other morning wake up call like it. Standing immersed in cold water simply ignites the body into action. My breathing deepens, my blood starts pumping, and I feel alive. As Wim has said, the cold is merciless but righteous. Stepping into the cold shower guarantees an experience in my own physiology. I'm forced by nature to dive deep within myself and find tranquility in the discomfort. And when I turn the water off, I'm left with a rush of energy and a drive to live the day fully. I feel charged. Awakened. Strong.
Cold showers are a great willpower exercise. Mentally, it takes a lot of determination to submit myself to this every morning. Harvesting the willingness to face such a challenge starts the day off with a triumph and that feeling of triumph carries throughout the day. Overcoming the resistance to take a cold shower makes everything else seem like a piece of cake. I've since been able to sit for longer meditations. I'm happy to fold my laundry, clean the dishes, etc. My focus has become more engulfed by the task at hand which led me to find more joy in trivial chores, and the things I care about as well.
Cold Exposure and the Body
This is a deep one. I urge you to hop online and do some light reading on the topic (see below). The benefits are undeniable. Repeated cold exposure has been shown to increase immunity, elevate mood, jump-start metabolism, improve circulation, and improve temperature regulation (among a slew of other benefits). At this point I can't attest to an elevation in my white blood cell count, but I can tell you that I feel significantly more comfortable stepping out into the late autumn Boston air in just a t-shirt. Also, the mood elevating aspect is clear as day. I step out of the shower simply feeling stoked on life.
Turn down the knob and fire yourself up!
Here are some links to check out that explore the health benefits and history in more detail: