I’ve always had a love for experimentation—just to see what happens. Being a student of psychology has really amplified that tendency.
I first came across the concept of cold showers after reading an article on Ray Cronise1, a former NASA scientist, who became interested in the physiological effects of cold exposure on the human body. Digging into more research on the topic, I found that cold exposure could improve mood, immune strength, energy, and blood circulation, amongst other things2. It all seemed too good, so I decided to give it a try.
Here is how I set up my experiment: I would stand under cold water (tap handle all the way to the cold end) for 3 minutes a day for 3 months and record how I felt in a notebook after each shower. I was mostly interested in the effects of the cold showers on subjective mood improvement and energy.
At this point, you might be questioning my sanity. It’s okay, most of my friends did too. For most people, hot showers or baths are a great source of comfort and relaxation.How could I consider bathing in cold water?
It wasn’t easy. On day one, I was excited, yet reluctant as I stood there looking at the cold water streaming from the shower head. Curiosity killed the cat, I thought as I pondered the value of this experimentation—but satisfaction brought him back. With that, I stepped in. I gasped as the cold water hit my skin, and discomfort set in. Three minutes had never felt so long, as I tried thinking about anything other than being cold. At about the halfway point, I felt like my body had adjusted to the cold, and it became more bearable. Once the time was up, I stepped out of the shower and it felt amazing! My whole body tingled, and I felt a sense of altertness and calmness.As the days went on, the cold showers became a little easier, and with each passing day, I was able to think my way out of the cold discomfort quicker.
Looking through my notebook at the end of three months, it was clear, my mood and energy level had improved. It seemed that the cold showers had given me a little more skip in my step.
I also noticed that the showers had trained me to better tolerate a level of discomfort, physically and mentally. It became easier to overcome the drive to stay comfortable. Being a student often requires us to step outside our comfort zone: giving a class presentation, writing a major paper or exam, reading another chapter of a textbook, or sitting through another lecture… Most of us, at some point ask ourselves that awful question: “Can I really do this?” And the answer is: yes you can.
Be willing to step out of your comfort zone, you’ll be amazed at what you might learn about yourself. I know I am.