How to Start Taking Cold Showers in the Morning

Siim Land 8 comments

Every single morning I have an ice cold shower. It’s like a wake up call that says it’s time to focus and sets my mindset right. The effects are quite literally astonishing on your health, performance and happiness. This article will show you how to start taking cold showers to become a better you.

Why Take Cold Showers

Like with a lot body mind empowering strategies, your immediate reaction is probably along the lines of shivering or pure horror. There’s no way I’m going to be doing it voluntarily…Only a masochistic person would. But those voices of self-doubt are only attempts of the ego trying to protect itself.

Why take cold showers in the first place? Trust me, if there wouldn’t be any benefits to them, then I would much rather spend my time doing something more enjoyable.

There is an array of benefits to taking cold showers, which will all give you access to the YOU+ version of yourself.

The Benefits of Taking Cold Showers

  • Triggers anti-inflammatory norepinephrine release that reduces short-term pain from injuries [i]
  • Reduces muscle soreness (DOMS)[ii] After exercise, your tissues are damaged and inflamed. Cold water lowers the temperature in those regions and constricts blood vessels, which helps to reduce the swelling and trauma.
  • Boosts happiness. Cold water unleashes a floodgate of mood-boosting neurotransmitters, such as dopamine and norepinephrine. It can help you battle depression[iii] and enjoy your life more. Regular winter swimming will increase your well-being and energy[iv]
  • Bolsters the immune system that kills viruses and fights off tumor factors [v][vi][vii]
  • Increases the antioxidant glutathione and superoxide dismutase, which support the liver functioning, optimize cellular processes and protect against oxidative stress [viii]
  • Improves blood circulation by sending more blood down to your organs. This is good for the cardiovascular system and will make you healthier overall.
  • Reduces oxidative stress, inflammation and detoxifies the body. Cold makes the lymph vessels contract and pump out toxins that may be found there. Your lymphatic system is responsible for carrying out waste from your cells. If it gets jammed up or blocked, then you’re more prone to getting sick and diseased
  • Increases brown fat[ix], which increases metabolism and burns energy to produce heat, which doesn’t happen with regular white fat[x]
  • Increased norepinephrine, or adrenaline, which is a hormone that boosts your energy, focus, mood and sleep cycles[xi]. It can also trigger neurogenesis, which improves your memory[xii].
  • Increases your tolerance to stress through the body’s mechanism for hardening[xiii]. This makes your body more capable of handling oxidative stress and exposure to harmful stimuli, such as temperature, disease, toxins etc.
  • Teaches your body to generate its own heat and allows you to control your autonomic nervous system.
  • Cold showers wake you up in the morning unlike anything else. It’s not like a shot of espresso. It’s more of a polar plunge that zaps you out of your slumber at an instant. By the same token, cold showers before bed knock you out like an elephant-tranquilizer and improve the quality of your sleep.

One hour of head-out cold water immersion in water of 14°C increases metabolic rate by 350%[xiv], plasma norepinephrine by 530% and dopamine by 250%.

In addition to the physiological and mood-enhancing benefits, taking cold showers makes you more disciplined. Doing this every day develops mental toughness and more willpower. You’ll become comfortable being uncomfortable and can dwell in discomfort for as long as your will allows you to.

Having a cold shower in the morning will make everything later in the day so much easier. You’ve already done something quite hard and will thus not be afraid of anything. You become ruthlessly effective and like an ice-cold killer.

How to Take Cold Showers

The first thing you have to do is make a conscious decision of starting to take cold showers. It’s a choice that’s difficult to make and requires courage. But once you choose to make it a habit, you give yourself the power to deliberately lead your own life.

Remember this though, once you pick up the task, there’s no turning back. To get the long-lasting benefits, you have to make it a part of who you are. No hesitations, no excuses, no “I’ll just skip it for the day” and no blind spots.

There are 2 parts to getting used to the cold

  • One is the purely physical adaptation and getting used to lower temperatures. The feeling of cold and shivering is primarily subjective. Wim Hof can stay immersed in an ice bath for 2 hours without freezing over nor breaking a sweat but the average person can’t even turn down the central heating without dying. You have to condition your body by exposing yourself to the cold like with any other training.
  • The second part is mental. Your mind will try to fight back at you every second of it. If you listen to your own voice of self-doubt and give in to fear, then you won’t be able to muster enough courage or willpower either. You have to realize that it’s not going to harm you but will actually make you better. The anxiety is just a sign of heading in the right direction and can be used as energy to take the plunge. Your mindset determines the way you perceive the cold, the effects it has and how you’re going to deal with it.

Tips for Taking Cold Showers

  • Just breathe. Feel the ins and outs of your breath. This will give your monkey mind something else to focus on other than the cold and will then cause less anxiety as well. Deep belly breathing will also allow you to generate your body’s own heat.
  • Visualize success. Don’t think about how bad it’s going to be. Instead, think about all of the benefits you’re going to get and envision yourself being perfectly fine.
  • Just do it. The longer you think about it the more anxiety you’ll create. It won’t get easier and you won’t be able to get it over with by simply standing there. At some point you simply have to take the plunge and do it. This single step is most important for building an indomitable character. If you quit, then you’re setting yourself up for failure in everything else you do as well.
  • Don’t freeze or tense up. Your immediate reaction to the cold is to stiff up and become paralyzed. You’ll start shivering and moving around like crazy. This is a mistake because you’re teaching your body and mind to cause a habitual response. If you tense up every time, then you’ll never get used to it.
  • Yield to the cold. Becoming a Spartan will give you the right mindset, but to actually adapt to the freeze, you must not fight it. You have to become vulnerable and yield to the cold. Fully accept it for what it is. Feel how the water is falling down on your face and what effect it has. Do you get scared, want to escape or are you completely calm and relaxed? You’ll actually start noticing stuff about your body you previously didn’t. It’s like a practice of becoming more mindful and experiencing the present moment. Quite magical.

Cold Showers VS Hot Showers

At first you may not have enough courage or strength to jump right in. If that’s so, then you can have what’s called a Scottish Shower, like James Bond. He started off with hot water, washed his hair, amazed over himself, did some other stuff and then finished off with ice cold water.

This is a great first step for getting used to the cold.

  • Begin with warm water
  • Dwell in it for 20-30 seconds
  • Turn it all the way up until it gets hot
  • Switch to the ice cold polar opposite
  • Allow yourself to cool
  • Wait until it starts to get freezing
  • Endure through it for 20-30 seconds
  • Swap back to hot water
  • Repeat for about 5 minutes
  • Always finish off with cold…

There are also some additional things you can do on a daily basis to get more used to lower temperatures. These things will condition your body to adapt to the cold.

  • Start wearing less clothes overall. No big woolly sweaters, no fluffy jackets, no earmuffs, no overalls.
  • Turn off the central heating and use it only during the winter. Keep it as low as possible for the majority of the time. Of course, you don’t have to turn your house into an igloo. Simply lower it down. Having a nice fire going in the fireplace is still a nice thing to have.
  • Sleep with only your bed sheets. Cold actually improves your sleep. The best temperatures are between 60-67 degrees Fahrenheit (15-19 Celsius).
  • Take it to the next level with cold water immersion. Having ice baths or swimming in the winter will have an even more empowering physiological effect. 530% increase in norepinephrine, a jolt of metabolism by 350% and a boost of dopamine by 250%.
cold-water-immersion
cold-water-immersion

More Than a Year of Cold Showers

I’ve been taking cold showers every single morning for nearly 2 years now. It’s been life-transforming, to say the least. Getting up early isn’t difficult for me and I’m always quite awake by itself but that freezing shock will zap you out of even the deepest of slumbers. It works a lot better than coffee.

Doing this every single day, no matter where you are, despite the weather or how you feel will cultivate your character and increases your willpower 10-fold. You’ll get used to being uncomfortable and can thus do things others aren’t willing to do. The same mentality will carry you through hell and back.

There have been many situations when I’m travelling or in a different environment but I still do my best to stick to the habit. Even if I’m feeling slightly sick or ill, I still do it. I’ve maybe missed only 1 or 2 days. No excuses…

It also develops this cold shower discipline that transitions over to every other area of your life as well. You begin to trust yourself more. If you’ve decided to turn it into a habit and then deliberately turn a blind eye, then eventually you’ll start slacking off in everything else you do as well. You’ll start skipping eating healthy, sleeping in, pushing off things you know you have to do and fall into a downward spiral.

I challenge you to start taking cold showers in the morning. If you stay consistent with it, it can turn you into an indomitable character. Only your own will can stand in your way. Check out the video on my YouTube channel and make sure to join the Body Mind Agoge to begin your development.

how-to-start-taking-cold-showers-in-the-morning
how-to-start-taking-cold-showers-in-the-morning

References

[i] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10735978

[ii] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25375114

[iii] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17993252

[iv] http://www.circumpolarhealthjournal.net/index.php/ijch/article/view/17700/20171

[v] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10735978

[vi] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2211456/

[vii] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16870097

[viii] http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0046352

[ix] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3726172/

[x] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14715917

[xi] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17993252

[xii] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17511617

[xiii] http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0891584994900302

[xiv] http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s004210050065

  • Steve Tanner

    Just taken my first cold shower, wasn’t as difficult as I thought – couldn’t stay in for too long though so will build up my tolerance. Thanks Siim for this article, I’ve bookmarked it to read again (and again – for motivation) feel great now, and that was probably less than a minute under the water – how long do you normally shower for?

    • Siim Land

      Awesome. It’s mostly mental. The feeling of cold is purely subjective. You get scared because for the majority of time we’re all so comfortable and warm. Getting a shock every once in a while is necessary and useful.
      Don’t worry about the length of it at all. Do it as long as you like. The idea is simply doing it. After about 30 seconds to a minute, you overcome all resistance and can dwell in it for longer with ease. It’s only the initial phase that matters. I usually have it for 1-2 minutes, sometimes longer. You hit a point of diminishing returns quite quickly.

      Thanks for commenting!

      • hubert

        My showers were so cold, that I didn’t feel my skin. Is it okay or it’s too cold?

        • Siim Land

          Maybe for a moment but you shouldn’t aim for becoming numb and completely frozen.

  • Piotr Majek

    Hey, very interesting post. I have one technical question: when I should have to do it? Just after waking up, as a first thing in my morning routine, or later? How do you connect cold showers with normal shower to clean yourself?

    • Siim Land

      Thanks, Piotr!
      I like to do it as part of my morning routine because it wakes me up at an instant and gets me comfortable being uncomfortable. Doing something difficult right away will make everything else seem easier. I have another shower later in the day after working out and will clean myself then.
      Thanks for commenting!

      • Piotr Majek

        Ok, that’s all clear 🙂 So I have no choice, and my tomorrow first thing will be cold shower!

        • Siim Land

          Awesome. It takes courage to pick up such a habit. Let me know how you’re doing 😀