Why Cold Showers Are Good For You

I have a confession to make. When I first started this blog a few years ago I wasn’t actually taking cold showers. I had just written my first piece about my skydiving experience and needed a name for my URL. I was planning on calling it youarenowleavingyourcomfortzone.com but thankfully I have a husband who as well as being in marketing is also brutally honest and told me how painfully boring that sounded.

At the time I’d recently been binge-listening (is that a thing?) to a podcast called Smart People Podcast, and an episode that really stuck out for me was an interview with a guy called Joe De Sena. Joe is the CEO and founder of The Spartan Race, which is a crazy endurance race that pushes people to their limits, mentally and physically. During the interview he spoke about the crazy tough things that people put themselves through during the race (and an even crazier one called the Death Race) but all of that seemed ridiculous and outside of the realms of my ability. That was until he talked about the practice of taking cold showers and how life changing it can be. Really? I thought. How could something so simple make such a difference?

I get asked all the time “WHY are cold showers so good for you?” According to the internet the list of reasons is almost limitless. It seems to come second only to coconut oil in the list of miracles it can provide. Thankfully I’ve yet to hear anyone say it cures cancer. But apparently it can increase alertness; improve circulation; reduce inflammation; improve feelings of depression; give you better skin and hair; increase fertility; and aid in weight loss. Just to name a few. I will be the first to admit that these physical reasons alone are pretty impressive and believe it or not many of them are backed by scientific evidence. But for me, and the reason that this blog has its name, the most powerful benefit to putting yourself under a cold shower is that it builds your confidence, improves your resilience and helps to shift your mindset from “I can’t” to “I can”.

“Whether you believe you can or believe you can’t, you’re right.” Henry Ford

About a year after I started the blog I decided that I really should be practicing what I preach, so I set myself a challenge to have cold showers everyday. The first day of the challenge I went to turn the tap on and that little doubting voice in my head started. “Why are you even doing this?” “How is this going to make any difference to your life?” “This is so dumb!”. I don’t know who this little voice in my head is, but jeez she is a negative little bitch! All of us have our own version of this, our own inner critic. Wellness coach Melissa Ambrosini calls it her “Mean Girl”, which I think is kind of appropriate. Whatever you want to call it, having some form of self evaluation is useful, but when it gets overly critical, we need to put it back in it’s place. I have found that one way of doing this is to prove your inner critic wrong. “You don’t think I can have a cold shower? Just watch me prove you wrong!” So on that very first day I steeled myself and turned the tap to cold.

I’m pretty sure that the first time I did it I was only under the water for less than 3 seconds – but I did it! “See!” I told my inner critic “I DID it!! I TOLD you I could do it!” And so the next day my little inner critic got a little bit quieter, folding her arms and going off in a huff because I’d proven her wrong (ok, so I have a good imagination…). The next day she became a little quieter still and then I started increasing the amount of time that I spent under the water. Each day it got easier, physically and mentally. The key is the gradual and consistent effort, slowly expanding your comfort zone further and further. Each time you prove to yourself what you are capable of your confidence, resilience and belief in yourself grows. Then when you’re faced with a decision outside of the shower there is a counter-voice to your inner critic “Maybe I CAN do this?” “Maybe I should just try, and see what happens.”

Self-belief is everything. The more I do these comfort zone challenges the more I know this to be true. But how is it that someone like Elon Musk believes that he can colonise Mars yet I doubt my ability to start my own business, for example? Unfortunately self-belief is not a switch you can instantly flick, it needs to be cultivated and nurtured. It’s true that some people may have a head start, they may have had more supportive parents, a teacher who encouraged them, or even had certain life experiences that helped them to develop those skills earlier in life, but that doesn’t mean you can’t start today.

Having a cold shower each day is an easily accessible comfort zone challenge, it doesn’t require you to fly off to Nepal to climb Mt. Everest or stand on a stage presenting to 10,000 people. The key to a good comfort zone challenge is that it needs to stretch you enough to the point of “Ooh, this is nerve wracking but I may just be able to pull it off” rather than the idea of achieving it being completely incomprehensible. I guess that is why the idea of cold showers appealed to me as a blog title – given my current restrictions around family life. I wanted the blog to be about taking on bite-sized challenges within your life as it is right now. Start where you are.

Have I convinced you yet? Are you ready to try cold showers? If you’re ready to dive straight in, by all means go ahead. If you’d prefer to start off slow I recommend starting with your usual warm shower and finishing off with a few seconds of cold. Each day you can increase the amount of time under the cold water. Try it for 30 days, working your way up to 30 seconds under the water. I promise you that it will change the way you feel about yourself and what you are capable of. And if no one has told you already today – remember that you are STRONGER, SMARTER and MORE CAPABLE than you think.

I’d love to hear about your experience and progress with cold showers – how do you feel?! Let me know in the comments below or come join the conversation over on Facebook.

Please follow and like us:

I have a Girl Crush

 

I know, it’s ridiculous. If you know me, you will know that I don’t really buy into celebrity culture. I have no interest in the Kardashians, I don’t watch reality TV and I’ve never really had a favourite singer/actor/model/sportsperson. In fact you could say that I actually dislike the whole celebrity thing quite a bit. But here I am, a 40-year-old woman who has a girl crush on someone I only know via social media. *Face palm*

I have no idea how I actually came across her, but one night (probably past my bed-time) I noticed myself glow-faced and scrolling through her Instagram feed. There I was, fawning over her so-called perfect life, thinking to myself “Why can’t I look like that?” “Why can’t I live there?” “Why can’t I have what she has?” And almost instantly I started feeling really down. I started feeling as though something was lacking in my life and felt down on myself about my apparent failure to achieve my dream life. At the time I didn’t associate this feeling with my mindless scrolling, I just knew that I wasn’t happy and I couldn’t identify why.

I’m not sure if it was intuition, or perhaps a bit of encouragement from my husband, but in January I decided that I needed to take a break from social media. Initially I was only planning to go off Facebook, huge resistance showed up when I started thinking about deleting Instagram from my phone. But if doing comfort zone challenges has taught me anything it is that where I feel that resistance I need to push through it. So for February I gave up Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest, or as I like to call it: my Social Media Bermuda Triangle.

During the first couple of days I would reach for my phone, almost instinctively, to check my Instagram and Facebook feeds – mostly when I was bored, feeling uncomfortable or trying to distract myself. Thankfully I gave myself a bit of a head start by deleting the apps from my phone. I also noticed the pull towards them when I was working on the computer, but managed to catch myself when I found myself at the Facebook login screen. It truly had become a deeply ingrained habit.

About a week or so into the challenge I started to notice that I’d lose track of where my phone was. I would put it down and then not touch it for hours. I noticed how much time I got back by not mindlessly scrolling (and scrolling and scrolling). I noticed how much more engaged I was with the kids, because I’m ashamed to admit that I sometimes used it as a tool to escape the monotony of the day-to-day with young children. And most notably I wasn’t feeling down about my life anymore. I started to look around and realise that what I already had was pretty damn amazing. Hash tag blessed and all that jazz.

However, while I had made all these amazing discoveries, I did still miss some aspects of being on social media. Since I don’t read a newspaper I like to get my news that way; I like to see what my wider circle of friends have been doing; and of course there are always cute dog videos (what can I say? I’m not a cat person.). But how could I go back to it if when I did I started feeling down about my life? I didn’t want to covet someone else’s life anymore.

I shared this feeling with a friend while out hiking one day (the BEST way to have juicy conversations!) and her point of view has completely changed the way I look at and interact with people that I envy. She said that envy is there to help us, which, after my epiphany about intuition recently, makes complete sense. Envy, along with any of our other emotions, is just information. It’s our truest self, who we are at our core, or some may call it our soul, trying to tell us what it wants or needs. Kind of like an inner compass, guiding us in the right direction.

When I thought about it from that perspective I started asking myself “What is it about her and her life that I envy?” I won’t lie; some of it was about what she looked like. But also it was about being a business owner, the flexibility she has with her life, her ability to travel and still continue running a creative business that she loves. Not to mention that she works with and shares the parenting responsibilities with her husband 50:50. These things were indicators to me about how I’d like to be living my life.

The next step that I took was to then question the things that came up for me and see how they aligned with my own values. Why did I want to look perfectly made up and be a size 8? Is that my own true desire or just a societal pressure influencing me (this is more likely to be driven by the ego than your soul)? Why did I want to have my own business and flexibility? From a body image perspective, being an unnaturally smaller size (for me) actually does not align with my values around body positivity. I don’t believe in diets and nor do I believe in struggling to shrink my body to fit a cultural ideal. I believe in health at any size and I believe in intuitive eating. So once I became aware of it that aspect of what I was envying naturally fell away. Unfortunately this doesn’t mean that it goes away completely, I still have to remind myself of this at times but I have gotten better at removing my triggers (this is a whole other blog post entirely).

Finally, I asked myself “Am I willing to do what needs to be done and make the sacrifices required in order to achieve what I envy?” Do I want to have beautiful hair, makeup and style? Yes. But am I willing to blow dry my hair and spend a tonne of time in the bathroom applying makeup each day? Um, no. I am WAY too lazy for that. However, when it comes to the idea of building a business and creating a life of flexibility, creativity and an equal parenting arrangement, I am prepared to make the sacrifices, to stay up late, hustle and to do the hard yards and most definitely get outside of my comfort zone.

Now that I am listening to myself and trusting my inner guidance I’ve got something to aim for. As a result I have created a vision board for myself and the next step is to get to work. If you want to live a more intentional life, it’s absolutely vital to know what it is that you want. Sometimes it feels like you don’t even know what you want, I’ve certainly felt that way before, but the signs are there. Your body and your emotions are giving you clues everyday – you just have to listen, observe and playfully ask yourself questions.

So for now my girl crush and I are going to remain Insta-friends (and by that I mean I’m going to watch her life from afar and she won’t ever know who the hell I am – so weird), but as a result of my one-month hiatus my relationship with social media has changed. Social media, like so many other things, is not inherently good or bad; it’s how we interact with it that matters. We have to remember to use it in a way that serves us; otherwise we will end up being its servant.

Are you on Facebook? Instagram? Let’s be friends!

Please follow and like us:

Why I was terrified of having a 40th birthday party

I was pretty freaked out at the prospect of turning 30, but honestly 40 didn’t seem that big of a deal. I’m pretty proud of what I’ve achieved in my life thus far and with the years has come an increased level of self knowledge and self confidence. So why was I so terrified at the idea of having a party to celebrate such a milestone?

I really did want to have a party and to celebrate with the people I love. And since about this time last year I had been planning, dreaming, and spending way too much time on Pinterest, to come up with killer ideas to make my 40th birthday memorable. But every time I settled on an idea I would change my mind. Maybe a weekend away would be better? Or maybe a yacht on the harbour would be cool? Why don’t I do one of those perfectly styled lunches under a tree with fairy lights and co-ordinated tableware (ok, step AWAY from the Pinterest board). Any of these ideas would have been great, totally possible and probably great fun, but to do it I would actually need to invite people – and that was my major stumbling block.

The truth was that I was totally shit-scared of rejection. I really didn’t want to find out that I wasn’t important to the people who were important to me. And so the easiest option was to just do nothing and that is what I did: nothing. The actual day of my birthday was really great, hubby made a huge deal of it and made me feel totally special. I got some awesome presents, we hung out on the beach (kid-free!), went out for a beautiful lunch at Jonah’s and spent some family time together in the evening. But the party I had so wanted was not in the mix, nor on the horizon.

Thankfully, I have a good friend who is definitely not scared of a party. I think it’s true that sometimes you need a little encouragement to get yourself out of your comfort zone, and on that day she was there to metaphorically push me out of the plane door. One minute we were lazing on the beach, chatting away (“Yeah, Nah, I don’t think I’ll have a party after all…) and the next minute she had created a Facebook event for lunch the following Saturday. It’s fair to say that what started as a very relaxing Sunday morning, quickly turned into an anxiety-filled day. Multiple days, actually.

Firstly I stressed about who to invite, “will they think I’m weird for inviting them?” And then I stressed about who I didn’t invite, “will they be offended if they find out I didn’t invite them?” And then I stressed out about who would actually come, “do they even care; am I important enough?” At this point you are either thinking that I am a neurotic lunatic… or you are nodding your head in agreement. Since talking about my fear of rejection (AKA Fear of Hosting a Party) I have spoken to many people who have the same fear. Isn’t it funny how we sometimes think we are the only person who feels a certain way – that is almost never the case.

Wanting to belong is a very human trait. Scientists believe that we are neuro-biologically hardwired for connection and belonging, it’s integral to our survival as a species. It’s not something weird and it most certainly isn’t anything to be ashamed of. But the irony is that our need for connection, and the fear of rejection that accompanies it, is often what keeps us the most disconnected. It is what keeps us from talking to a new person at a party, or speaking up in a meeting, or even holding a party with all your friends for your freaking 40th birthday!

And so, I am happy to report that the world did not end when that Facebook event was created. Despite the initial anxiety that I felt around the potential rejection, the reality was nowhere near as terrifying. And despite giving people less than a week’s notice, many of my close friends made a huge effort to come along. I even had some old friends and some new ones who totally surprised me and came too. But the most surprising thing was that the ‘rejections’ weren’t nearly as painful as I had built them up to be in my mind. I didn’t let my anxiety override my rational brain when some people already had plans, new babies, or were unable to make it from interstate. It didn’t make me feel less loved or less important, it was just the way it was.

In the end we were a modest group of 12 people, but even if not everyone important to me was there, everyone who was there was important to me. We had some great conversation, we laughed, I got to try an Aperol Spritz (slightly late to the party, apparently they’re so 2015) and I got to celebrate being alive for 40 amazing years.

If I hadn’t pushed through the anxiety, and yes ok, been slightly nudged to take the leap, I wouldn’t have had the chance to experience the fun and felt the love from that day. Sometimes I feel like despite all my musings around getting outside of my comfort zone, it’s the most unexpected places that I discover my resistance. But recognising that resistance and stepping into the feelings of discomfort always provides me with an opportunity for reflection, growth and a huge amount of satisfaction. Happy birthday to me!

 

 

Please follow and like us:

Annual Review 2017

Well, it’s been a while! Actually it’s almost been a year and a half since I last published here. I’ve half written a few blog posts and had a number of ideas for challenges and posts waft through my brain but nothing has stuck, nothing has felt right. Part of me has been beating myself up for it, but if I am to give myself more compassion and understanding, then I would concede that the last year, at least, has been a big one. Looking after a baby, my son who was born three days before New Year last year, has been exhausting emotionally and physically. He is now one year old and just that very fact has lightened my burden hugely. OK, the fact I am getting (a little bit) more sleep also helps, but much of the weight that has lifted has been psychological rather than physiological.

So here I am. Why am I returning here you may be asking? What has brought me back to this space? At this point I am a little hazy around that, but there is something drawing me back. The need to be more intentional in my life, the need to get back to me, the need for a creative outlet or space to connect perhaps? I am not entirely sure, but I am learning to trust my intuition more these days and so, this is where it finds me.

I have decided to start with a bit of a reflection on last year and then to set my intentions for the coming year. An Annual Review is an idea that I read about from Chris Guillebeau. Each year he reflects on the previous 12 months to work out what went well for him that year and what didn’t go so well. Then he sets goals for the year ahead. I’ve done goal setting before, but I was drawn to the idea of a reflection on the year that has past. It’s a short and simple exercise, but my efficient, organised, OCD mind likes the idea of drawing a line under the previous year. Sort of like packaging it up, tying a neat little bow around it and then putting it on the shelf. It also kind of clears the decks for the year ahead.

Here are my reflections on the year that was 2017:

Positives of 2017 – Leon’s first year, watching him grow and change and my own personal growth as a result; Our family trip to Portugal, challenging at times but a magnificent adventure that I will remember for years to come; Being able to support a friend through a difficult time; Getting to know/understand my Mum better and feeling closer to her because of it; Seeing one of my best friends get married and have a baby; Communication with my husband has improved hugely this year and we are closer than ever because of it (I still kind of dig him, even after ten years together).

Negatives of 2017 – No progress on making a career change; Still struggling somewhat with my body image; Neglected doing things ‘just for fun’ such as photography, social outings, reading, creative writing; Haven’t saved as much money as I would have liked; I continue to have a lot of negative self talk.

One of the benefits of doing this reflection is that it allows me to be a little more objective about my year. There is no doubt that 2017 was a difficult one, lack of sleep affects my mental health hugely and that makes things tougher than they need to be, but it’s also helpful to be reminded that amidst the difficulty there have been lots of achievements, lots of moments of joy and SO many things to celebrate. It is also helpful for me to give compassion to myself around the detractors – no, I haven’t made any progress on my career change, but I recognise that this was a season for caring and connecting with my gorgeous little boy. And yes, I still struggle with body image sometimes, but I have made huge progress with intuitive eating, awareness of diet culture and catching judgements.

Now that I’ve put 2017 on the shelf, it’s time to get excited for 2018! And I AM excited. I turned 40 just a week ago and initially that blew me a little off keel. But now I am feeling pretty damn pumped about it – how could I not be, I’m not so keen about the alternative! Right now I am feeling exceptionally grateful for being alive, for all the privileges I have been bestowed and all my achievements big and small that have led me to today. How great is it to be alive!

The framework that I am using for my goals comes from a book I read last year called Designing Your Life. The authors use four categories to create a Dashboard of sorts to help you assess how well things are going in four broad areas of your life: Work, Play, Health, Love. Of course you can use any categories you like, or none at all, but I have used each of these categories to set my intentions for the year ahead as it resonated with me. This is what I came up with.

Work

  • Conduct at least 12 interviews with people to explore potential career change ideas;
  • To be earning at least $1,000 from a side hustle by the end of the year;
  • Write at least one blog post per month for Cold Showers Are Good For you and get back into doing comfort zone challenges;

Play

  • Sign up for a regular class for each term this year (i.e. dancing, pottery, etc);
  • Read 12 novels and 12 non-fiction books by the end of the year;
  • Spend one day a month taking photos, just for the fun of it;

Health

  • Meditate 365 days of this year;
  • Drink a green smoothie daily for 30 days;
  • Not to weigh myself at all this year (hopefully ever again);

Love

  • Have a date with my husband at least once a month;
  • To not check my phone (especially social media) when I am spending time with Sophie and Leon;
  • Plan or say yes to at least one social event with friends per month.

As Chris Guillebeau says in his article, you need to have an action plan as well as a vision. I am using a Passion Planner, for the third year in a row (admittedly last years use was pretty patchy), to help me turn these goals into reality. It helps me break it all down and create solid action steps to get from where I am now to achieving my goals. It helps to keep me accountable when I check in each week too, although now I also have YOU, dear reader, to keep me accountable when I check in this time next year.

What are your goals for 2018? Have you ever conducted an annual review? And will you join me in a year of comfort zone challenges to stretch and learn and grow into the person you know you can be?

Please follow and like us: