The Initial Shock Never Goes Away (The Results of My 30 Day Cold Shower Experiment)

The past month I found myself doing something odd: taking cold showers.

Why? Well, the short answer is that I had been reading a bunch of articles and a few chapters on the benefits of taking a cold shower (and, sometimes applying ice packs to the back of the neck for body optimization purposes).

I had always been curious about the effects of cold water vs. hot water, and specifically how it would affect my psychology.

Not too get too philosophical about it, but there was always something at the back of my mind regarding those moments of hesitation right before something that hurts/stings, shocks/disrupts, or thrills you.

You know, like when you decide to jump off a bridge or something. The feeling you get before you jump.

Or the feeling you get before jumping out of a plane or diving off a cliff or swimming with sharks.

Or, in this case, what is the feeling that you get when you anticipate being fully immersed in cold water?

What is it, exactly?

I would probably describe it as anticipation of shock.

It’s not the actual shock you experience, it’s just the anxiety about what is about to happen, and the associated hesitation, rather than just taking the plunge.

I don’t know about you, but this happens to me every time I think about getting dunked in cold water.

I’d say it’s a unique look into the mind-body complex, where your body actually remembers the feeling of shockingly cold water, and is sending your brain certain signals which cause you a certain degree of hesitation and anxiety… know what I’m talking about?

Well, for the past 30 days I have been taking cold showers, and part of the reason I was doing so was because I want to practice resisting anxiety and acting against the anticipation of shock. If I know something is coming that might shock me a little, instead of humming and hawing in hesitation and fear, just going ahead with it and making the leap.

Now, it’s actually only a small practice… I mean, many people in the world have no choice but to take cold showers, and I doubt that after a few years of it that it affects them at all.

Yet, I admit I have a certain sensitivity to things, and especially to cold water dousing my entire bare body.

So for the last month I have been taking cold showers as an experiment. I had also read about the healthy effects of showers, for example. Among the benefits of cold showers:

  • Improves circulation
  • Relieves depression
  • Healthier skin and hair
  • Increases testosterone
  • Increases fertility
  • Increases energy and well-being

In my own personal anecdote, I will tell you that I generally found all of these things to be true. I won’t delve into specifics, and truth be told, I have no specific measurements or before-and-after readings of my various bio-indicators, but I will say that I believe in the healthiness of cold showers, based on the way my body feels.

After a cold shower, I definitely feel more awake, healthy, and energized. My skin feels better, my hair feels better, and I feel cleaner.

Now, the fact of the matter is that the initial shock of cold water still gets to me, and hasn’t gone away. There’s currently nothing I know of that can prevent the initial shock to my body of having that cold water hit my bare skin, and I doubt there ever will be, unless I can train myself to thermo-regulate, like the real, actual Iceman.

Imagine, the ability to will yourself warmer?

That is some serious will power.

Anyways, what I found is that since the initial shock of the cold shower doesn’t wear away, the initial anticipation of it doesn’t go away either. I would say the pre-shower anxiety is a little lower now since I’ve been going through it for 30 days, but it’s still there.

So, the effect of all this is that I get to practice resistance to anticipation of shock. I turn on the water and walk right into it. It’s a small victory, but a victory none the less.

And by the way, the shock definitely not relaxing. In fact, my muscles always tense up and I have to exhale deep breaths in order to get through it. If you are looking to relax your muscles after a full day of heavy labor, I would not recommend a cold shower, unless it was combined with a jacuzzi.

But the basic thing I’ve learned here is that often times you just have to go through with something because by doing it, you are making yourself stronger.

The initial shock won’t go away. And the anticipation of the shock won’t go away. But you do it nonetheless.

And that is a valuable life lesson, wouldn’t you say?

  • Lauren @ The Mad to Live

    30 days straight! you rock! Sometimes I do a few cold showers a week and I LOVE them but I wouldn’t mind a 30 day challenge. 🙂
    Well done Ryan!
    Laur from M2LIVE

    • The thing is, I actually love hot showers. So I felt like the more I would take hot showers, the less inclined I would be to take a cold one… Ah well! Thanks for dropping by Lauren!

      • Canis Aureus

        Are you still taking cold showers???

        • Can’t say I am haha

  • Did you read the Flinch or did you think of doing this on your own?  More power to you either way!

    • Didn’t read the Flinch, but sounds like an interesting title! 🙂

      • It’s short and free on Amazon… you should go read it. Julien Smith comes to pretty much the same conclusion, and he even recommends that people take cold showers. 🙂

        • Ah, he must be a smart guy. 😉

  • Sometimes I will end a hot shower with a cold burst of water but there is no way I would put myself through the torture of 30 days of cold showers! Kudos to you for sticking with it. 

    • Thanks Andrea. It’s less of a torture now, actually quite enlivening!

  • Hillarious!  Reading Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink right now and he talks of training security guards by having them walk around corners and shooting them with rubber bullets or having violent dogs jump out at them from dark corners.  They found that it was always shocking but that the trainies recoverd more quickly and remained calmer with repeated exposure and so had learned in some way to reamin calm in the eye of the storm.  Not sure how that applies to cold showers, but I hope it gets you something!  (the positve health affects are probably enough of a reward though I am not sure they are enough to get me started)  Off to take a hot shower!

    • Now that’s some creative training, dogs jumping out at you? I don’t know if I could ever go that far… 🙂 I did in fact have a huge rottweiler suddenly bark at me the other night from around a corner and it made me jump like crazy. Cold showers are a little more “domesticated” shock, hehe… Thanks for the comment, Aaron!

  • Egon

     I am taking cold showers for for days now, twice, or three times a day. I start with hot water for a minute, and then slow transition to cold water..first neck and back then the rest..I feel great about it, it’s very healthy,and you feel like a real winner after that, because if you ask me it takes lot of balls to take real cold shower. My problem is very big shock. First goes hyperventilation, which lasts about half a minute, then sometimes dizzines and dezorientation, which once endured even five minutes after showering..I am not sure is it all just anxiety (which I really feel when cold showers are in question, it’s my life time fear), or I should see a doctor because something more serious? Does anybody have same symptoms?

    • I am not a doctor, so I wouldn’t know what to do. I’d say if you’re worried about something, it would be better to ask a medical professional.

      Having said that, congrats on taking the cold showers.