Cold showers and the power of habit

What you do every impacts your life much more than what you do every once in awhile.

In April 2016, I started an experiment with showering cold for consecutive mornings to test how sadistic I could be.

Joking. Sort of.

My hypothesis was taking morning cold showers would improve my energy, alertness, speed in preparation, productivity, and a host of other benefits such as improved metabolism and inflammatory markers. (I will go in-depth with benefits another time) The potential gains were too overwhelming to ignore.

Duration of the test would be 30 days, with chances of extension if it proved beneficial. Of course, failure stood a chance as well; the experiment could end early for no other reason than if I quit or wussed out. The KPI was the measured time it would take for me to get up and get out the door. I also kept a running document of my observed performance at work in the morning period.

In short, the test proved to be an overwhelming success.

And if there were such a thing, it proved to be too successful. Since I began the experiment, I have not stopped. It’s not that I did not want to stop, but I was not able to. That’s right: I could not. Fast forward to now, I’m well over 270+ consecutive days of morning cold showering. It’s an experiment gone beautifully wrong.

I tried reasoning myself out of it — why put myself through such unnecessary torture? Life was good before cold showers. All I had to do was bring myself back to those days, back to that level. I resolved to quit several times. But the pull towards the shower head became even stronger. What you resist persists. This must be how Odysseus felt as the Sirens called to him.

But I made a miscalculation and underestimated the power of habit.

After so many days of cold showering in the morning, reverting back to my old routine was no longer an option. You see, the mind, once stretched by a new habit, can never go back to its old dimensions. As they say in melodramatic movie scenes, “We’ve come too far.” This is the power of habit.

Regardless if I was traveling, staying in a hotel, or living with family, I held my ground firmly as hell froze over every morning. Yes, everyone within the vicinity could hear me wail like a dying giraffe being dismembered during some of those mornings. No excuses could stop me and my new morning ritual. I wouldn’t let myself off the hook for even night time showers. Hey, you stick with your cigarettes and I’ll stick with my own poison of choice. This is the power of habit.

On the days which I managed to escape the house without my morning dose of my amateur cryotherapy, my brain was sluggish and performance sub optimal. With these withdrawal symptoms, I ended up going back to the ice chambers of my home. Like a coffee addict, I became dependent on my morning cold showers to function properly. It’s nothing magical, just simple biochemistry. My body adapted to the morning bursts of dopamine and endorphin to the point where reversibility was too painful. That’s the best sign of a secured habit — when it becomes more painful to quit than to continue it. This is the power of habit.

What you do every day will impact your life much more than what you do every once in awhile. And let’s face it. If you do something every once in awhile, it’s only a matter of time before you give up.

66 days to a lifetime of rewards

New research shows that a new habit can take anywhere from 18 to 254 days to form, with the average being 66. Err on the safe side — go for at least 66 to make it worth your time and investment. Think about it: 66 days of committed hard work for a lifetime of rewards.

Is it simple? Yes. The formula and answer is right there in front of both of us. Only 66 days to radically change your life. Now, is it easy? Absolutely not. And worse, you could easily develop undesirable habits if you’re not mindful.

If you’re lucky like me, you might forever change your biochemistry for good. Or turn into a major sadistic junkie like I have.

  • Powerful write up!

    I would say cold showers in California are easier to pull off than Ohio right now (based on outside temperature before, during, and when you get out) but that’s being way too soft.

    I’ve done it a few times to see what it was like, but didn’t make it a habit—my loss. Now I’m going to step up and do it.

    • Thanks bud. Agreed that location will definitely fluctuate the difficulty of making this a habit. I recall cold showering in north carolina during the summer seasons and felt I was cheating. Oh well, we do our best!

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