Welcome back! It’s been a while since I last posted a blog
In this blog, I’ll be sharing a strategy that is sure to challenge your mindset but also boost your resilience and is invigorating. Brace yourself for… cold-water bathing!
Let’s dive into history first. In ancient times, the Romans would progress through a series of heated rooms, ending with a refreshing plunge in the frigidarium – an unheated water bath in the Roman bathhouses.
Nowadays, many modern bathhouses and spa retreats have preserved the frigidarium tradition. During our family trip to the Mornington Peninsula, known for its hot water springs, we had the pleasure of experiencing several invigorating cold-water frigidarium options alongside the hot spring pools.
But what if you can’t access a bathhouse or live near natural water sources like the seaside or a freshwater lake? No worries! Your very own frigidarium is right at home – your bathroom! Simply embrace the practice of taking cold showers for similar benefits.
Are cold showers good for you?
Cold showers can be beneficial for your health! According to the comprehensive guide on cold water therapy provided by the website Cold Showers, (1) taking cold showers can have multiple positive effects on your well-being. These include jump-starting your day, improving your mood, increasing vitality, and even reducing pain. The website lists 21 potential benefits that can result from regularly taking cold showers!
Regarding scientific research, the benefits of cold showers for healthy individuals are still not fully understood due to the lack of randomized controlled trials. However, it’s important to note that the absence of clinical trials doesn’t necessarily imply the absence of an effect. This was demonstrated by a group of researchers from the Netherlands in 2015.
They conducted a randomized controlled trial titled The effect of cold showering on health and work: A randomized controlled trial (2) to put the theory of cold water therapy to the test. Their primary goal was to determine whether repeated exposure to cold water, specifically by taking a cold shower for at least 30 consecutive days, could have a positive impact on perceived illness. The outcome of this study was a reduction in self-reported sickness absence.
Although ongoing scientific exploration about the exact benefits of cold showers is still required, the early signs are favourable for including cold showers in our wellness strategies.
Would you like to take on a 30-day challenge?
I first heard about this research at a conference on October 20, 2019. The presenter posed an interesting question to the audience: “Are you up for a 30-day challenge?” Intrigued by the positive effects of cold water therapy, I decided it was the perfect time to give it a try. It was important for me to personally experience the benefits of cold showers before recommending them to my loved ones and clients. The presenter encouraged starting with hot water and then finishing with cold water for up to 60 seconds. That’s how I started incorporating cold showers into my wellness plan.
The study referred to mentioned the duration of time spent under the shower did not provide additional benefit beyond 60 seconds. So, I set out on my challenge, starting with a hot shower with the aim of ending with a 60-second cold shower. I must admit, it was quite an emotional journey! The hot shower part didn’t pose any problems, but the mere thought of turning off the hot water sent shivers down my spine!
I realised that I had a deeply ingrained belief that associated cold with pain and discomfort. Breaking free from this mindset was tougher than I imagined! With determination and an increase in cortisol and adrenaline levels, my fight-or-flight response kicked in. Finally, after a few attempts, I conquered my fear of the cold water, even if only for 5 to 10 seconds on my first attempt. It was a small victory, but it helped me interrupt my fear of cold showers.
Each day, I repeated the same process – starting with a hot shower and ending with cold water. As the days went by, I gradually increased the duration of the cold water phase by a second or two. After 30 days of consistency, I triumphed and reached 60 seconds of cold water! Since then, I haven’t missed a single day. I’ve completely changed my negative perception of cold showers and now appreciate the invigorating and paradoxical warming effects they bring.
Believe me, I wouldn’t have thought this was possible if I hadn’t experienced it firsthand.
Redefining what cold means to you
As I shared my experiences with family, friends, and clients, I realised that I was not alone in needing to redefine the concept of “cold.” Many already held onto fixed beliefs of cold being solely associated with winter, pain, low mood, and discomfort – all deemed negative or unfavourable. However, the truth is that cold is simply cold. The issue comes with what we make cold mean. While there are varying degrees of coldness, it remains relative to something else. This core principle was ingrained in me during my training in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), which adopts a relative perspective on things.
When we firmly hold onto a belief and perceive it as absolute truth – such as our beliefs about cold – we shut out other perspectives until we challenge those existing beliefs. Take the example of winter. TCM regards winter as a necessary and integral part of the seasonal transition, but some people find it miserable due to the cold, rain, and darkness. There’s even a medical condition linked to winter called seasonal affective disorder (SAD) or the winter blues. On the other hand, some view winter as an opportunity for joy and excitement precisely because it’s cold. Why? Because more coldness means more snow, translating to fun in the sun-kissed alpine environment – skiing, snowboarding, tobogganing, and simply revelling in the snowy wonderland.
The point is, that our understanding of cold and its associations is not fixed. By challenging our beliefs and embracing different perspectives, we open ourselves up to a broader comprehension of the world around us.
It’s all about perceptions
After cold showers, I now view cold as one of the many ways to maintain resilience and good health. However, I won’t go as far as taking hour-long cold showers or diving into ice baths! My belief system regarding extremes hasn’t shifted enough to embrace that level of intensity.
I firmly believe that moderation is key – too much of anything, even if it’s beneficial, can is still too much. Additionally, the research article mentioned earlier supports my stance on extremes, as it states that the positive effects of cold showers aren’t influenced by duration. Therefore, for now, I find that up to 30 seconds works perfectly for me!
Although my perception of cold has evolved, I acknowledge that I still need to work on rewiring my beliefs regarding sustained cold showers.
What does my family think?
My son, Matthew, was initially hesitant until that is, I challenged him to a cold shower contest. He felt compelled to outdo me and prove he could do it better! Since then, Matthew occasionally finishes off with a cold shower. My wife, Joana, thinks I’m crazy for taking cold showers, especially during winter! However, Joana still splashes her face with cold water first thing every morning, regardless of the season. She finds it invigorating, and she’s been doing it for years. It’s become her perceived normal, whereas I used to cringe at the thought of washing my face with cold water, until now!
From my experience, transitioning from hot to cold showers allows my mindset to sharpen – I feel revitalised, energised, and ready to tackle the day. Since starting my 30-day challenge in October 2019, my resilience has truly reached new heights.
Are you up to a challenge?
Reading about wellness strategies may seem pointless until we put them into action. So why not start your 30-day hot-to-cold shower challenge today? Once you experience the invigorating feeling afterwards, you’ll be thrilled that you took the leap! Of course, safety should always come first, so if you have any underlying medical conditions, be sure to consult your healthcare provider before giving it a try.
Thank you for taking the time to read my blog! Feel free to leave a comment below sharing your experiences with cold showers, and don’t forget to share this blog with your loved ones and colleagues. For the latest updates, be sure to email me at email@example.com to be at the top of the list.
Until my next blog, wishing you ongoing wellness.
Dr. George Dellas (Registered Chinese Medicine Practitioner)