My best thinking happens in the shower. Whenever I have to do something mentally taxing, I always take a long, ponderous shower before I get started.
I would have done so before sitting down to write this article, but I couldn’t - because this is a story about taking cold showers, something I have been doing for the past week.
Taking a cold shower is commonly thought of as a torturous act, something endured by people in military boot camps or jail. In the Seinfeld episode “The Jimmy,” George Costanza says cold showers are “for psychotics” when someone suggests he take one. Heck, the term “cold shower” itself is synonymous with “libido-killing.”
Despite all this, there’s a small but enthusiastic movement of people extolling the benefits of cold showers, and they have some real science to back them up.
Cold water has long been used as treatment for sore muscles by sports therapists and athletes. Other physical benefits of frigid H2O are said to include increased weight loss and improved skin, but there is also evidence that cold showers can help with your mental health, too.
One study published in the journal Medical Hypotheses suggests that cold showers could be used as a treatment for depression.
Cold morning showers also help with productivity (as the author of a New York Times piece on the topic found), the idea being that tackling a challenge first thing sets you up for success all day long.
And yet, ironically, all this evidence convinces me of one thing: hot showers are amazing. I mean, how else can you explain the fact that nearly everyone takes them despite there being mountains of evidence testifying to the wonders of cold showers?
I’ve spent my entire life testing out the benefits of hot showers, so I know they are great. The time had come to see what cold showers have to offer, so I decided to take one every morning for an entire week.
Specifically, I took 2-minute cold showers at the end of a very short (30 seconds or so) normal shower. Here’s what happened.
1. I became hyper-focused.
During my first cold shower I began counting to 2 minutes in my head, but the cascade of frigid water quickly derailed me at “two Mississippi.” If hot showers lull me into a state of deep thought, a cold shower grabs my brain by the collar and throws it into a freezing lake.
When you start to take a cold shower, it is impossible to think about anything besides “I am taking a cold shower.” It makes those first 15 seconds or so feel like an eternity.
But once you come to terms with the fact that you are being doused with frigid water, something interesting starts to happen: I began to focus on some very basic, elemental human faculties.
My shoulders are pinched up, I thought, do they have to be? I relaxed them, uncoiling the bundle of tense muscle. I’m breathing hard and fast. Is this necessary? My gasps deepened and slowed. I became calm - cold, but calm.
2. I got motivated.
After what I estimated to have been 2 minutes passed, I turned off the shower and prepared to start my day. And when I say “prepared,” I mean it.
I sat down and wrote a to-do list over breakfast. I felt great. I felt productive. It took just 2 minutes, but I was a believer in cold showers.
3. I had to summon some serious willpower.
The next day was more of the same, but I noticed I had more apprehension this time around before hopping in the shower. This trend continued throughout the following mornings as well.
If I knew how great it made me feel, then why didn’t I eagerly throw myself underneath the icy spray? The experience reminded me of a famous old saying, one that has been attributed to a bunch of authors: “I don’t enjoy writing. I enjoy having written.”
I don’t like taking cold showers, I just like the way they make me feel after I’ve already dried off.
The week has been a success, and I’ve assured myself that I will keep taking cold showers in the mornings. However, it won’t be easy.
I mean, have you taken a hot shower? It’s the best.