Cold Showers: Getting Comfortable With Being Uncomfortable.

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For the last 6 months or so I have been on a self improvement bender and one of my projects has been to listen to every episode of the Tim Ferriss Podcast. I am currently on episode #83, but one of the best tips I have learned from that podcast thus far came from none other than grand master himself, the supreme leader, Mr. Tony Robbins.

In episode 37 Tony describes his various routines and how one of the first things he does is he takes a dip in his plunge pool. This is essentially just a metal tub which contains 57 degree water. He tells Tim about how it “jolts every cell in his body”, and instantly he is fully awake and ready for the day.  I had to try this.

Now, I don’t have a cold tank. But I do have a shower.  And it is winter.

So for the past month or so I have been hopping in the shower as soon as I wake up at 5 a.m. At first I turn the water on hot.  I want to raise my body temp as high as I can so the thermal contrast of the cold water is at it’s greatest.  I get my body temperature nice and elevated, then it’s time for the cold water.

Now, this is where things start to get interesting.

Almost without fail my brain immediately says to me, “I don’t want to do this.  We shouldn’t do this.”  And I find this interesting because I really enjoy this activity, I honestly look forward to it.  Yet there is a loud voice in my head that says “uhhh do we have to?”

To silence this voice I start to psych myself up.  I say things like, “are you committed to this journey? [of becoming a more disciplined individual], are you you afraid of being uncomfortable?  If you are then you should go back to bed like the rest of society.  Or are you willing to become comfortable with being uncomfortable?  If so then turn that fucking water on.”

So I turn the hot water completely off, and crank the cold water full blast. Now, with it being winter the water is COLD, but honestly I would prefer it colder. And in the 2-3 seconds between turning the cold water on and it actually coming out of the shower I say aloud to myself “Alright now, channel your inner Tony.”

And I don’t just stand there passively, I get it everywhere. I turn around, I do my armpits, my legs, my head, face.  No warm part is left unattended.

What I have found with this exercise is that for those 30 seconds my attention becomes laser focused. Your mind goes from foggy to game time instantaneously!  It isn’t allowed to think about what you need to do that day, or about how the guy at work annoys you when he wears plaid, or all that other ceaseless mental chatter.  All it is thinking, all it is allowed to think, is “what the hell is going on?!?  I need to keep this body alive!” And it diverts all cognitive resources to the situation at hand.  It is this silencing of the monkey mind that is one of my favorite aspects of this ritual.

I keep the water running cold for about 30 seconds.  Essentially wait until your brain tells you “ok, ok, ok that’s enough!” and then do an extra 20 seconds for good measure ; )  Seriously, don’t shut it off when that voice tells you to.  The point is not to act reactively to your instincts, but intentional.  Pick a duration and stick with it.  5 seconds, 10 seconds, I don’t care.

Then I turn the hot water back on.  And let me tell you.  It is the definition ecstasy.  Most of the time I just start laughing.  I think it’s just a chemical reaction I have to the relief.  But nothing, and I mean nothing, comes even close to the feeling.  I can’t wait to be able to afford a plunge tank.

Apart from the physical and cognitive benefits of this experience, there are other, deeper running currents.  I feel that this ability to clearly see that voice in your head that tells you to avoid short term pain is like reaching a new plane.  What area’s of our lives are the way they are because of this voice?  Telling us that we don’t want to eat that whole food, calorie restricted meal.  Or that we shouldn’t go to that networking event because we don’t really know anyone there and we might look like a jackass.  Or that we watch Youtube video’s at night instead of working on our start-up because doing the latter kinda sucks and knife making videos are super stimulating.

What heights could we reach if we got a little more control over this urge to do whats comfortable?

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