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.

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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!

 

 

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How To Be A Super Hero

Child superhero portrait

How confident are you, would you say? Super confident? Not at all? If you had super powers do you think you would be more confident? I have been doing a lot of thinking about mindset recently and how that relates to our confidence. I wonder how much more we could achieve in life (even if that was just more happiness) if we just believed in ourselves. I think, however, that I’ve found a way that you can get in touch with your own super powers and improve your confidence – are you up for the challenge?

I was in sunny/cold/hot/windy Melbourne last week (seriously, that is how is should be known from now on). I was there for a course on Emotional Intelligence, which was a kind of a get to know yourself and start the year with a bang kind of experience. It was run by The School of Life, which is built on the premise that the world would be a pretty amazing if people were more emotionally aware – of themselves and others. I concur.

One of the classes within the five day course was How To Be More Confident and while all the content was worthwhile the thing that stuck with me was the notion that confidence isn’t necessarily a permanent state. For example, I am pretty confident talking to people about financial planning. I could probably even get on stage and address a room full of people on it. If, however you asked me to speak to a room of toddlers about how to fold origami I would probably go to pieces (of paper, haha, geddit!). My point is that you probably are confident in some area of your life already, so labelling ourselves as ‘not confident’ is not really a true reflection of us as a whole, complicated being.

On the surface you could assume that the reason I am confident talking to people about financial planning is that I have accumulated a lot of knowledge over the loooong time I have been doing it (did you have to point that out) and it may be the same for you in whatever area you are most confident in. But if you look a little closer, the real reason we feel confidence is how we feel about ourselves. Having that knowledge gives you a level of trust in yourself and your ability to cope with unknown future outcomes, which is essentially what confidence is. What if you trusted yourself to cope with any outcome in any situation, even if you didn’t have all the answers?

It seems like a big ask, doesn’t it? Actually mindset is something that isn’t that difficult to change. But like anything, it takes practice. I heard a fantastic story from a colleague of mine recently about how his mum changed her mindset almost overnight – and how you can do it too.

Shirley was a country housewife who dedicated her life to her family and her responsibilities. At the age of about 55 she decided that she wanted to change her name. Throughout her life she said she had never really felt like a Shirley and so at a time in her life where her family were grown and no longer relied on her quite so much, she announced that she was changing her name to Nina. From that time onwards she became Nina. Nina was adventurous, she was fun, she prioritised herself instead of always sacrificing herself for her family. She had found her super powers! And all because she had decided to. The funniest part of the story for me was that Nina would often talk about something great that she had done and comment “Shirley never would have done this!”.  Gold.*

I loved this story so much when I heard it. For me it proved that any change we want to make, anything that we want to do or anyone we want to become – WE have the power to make it happen, if only we change our mindset. For a short while after hearing this story I considered changing my name, but I actually don’t feel like a Nina, or anyone else. I still feel like Jane. But I did take a couple of steps to try and reap the benefits of this strategy, I encourage you to try it on for size and see if it fits.

Create Your Own Superhero

First you’ll need a name. Get creative and name this Super Hero version of yourself. Go by feel, see how different names fit.  Maybe think of who your favourite super heroes are and try some version that feels right for you. For me personally, Super-Jane felt right.

Now, take out a piece of paper and a pen.  Think about what you consider to be the very best version of yourself. Write it down. Describe in detail how that person feels (yes, try it in third person), how they act (and react), what they believe in and how they present themselves in the world – yes, do it in third person. For me, this manifesto style document spanned two A4 pages of about 15 bullet points. So as you can imagine it was quite detailed.  Some examples from my own Super Jane Manifesto are below, for reference.

  • Super Jane is strong but gentle, she is calm, patient, open and friendly but also focused and determined.
  • Super Jane understands and accepts herself, allows herself to fully feel her emotions, even the negative ones, without judgement of herself.

As you are writing it you may be thinking “But this isn’t me.”.  The important part is knowing who you WANT to be and trusting that you can become that person.  You should include any areas that you want to work on and include any of the qualities you know you already possess and are proud of.

Suit Up!

Now, the next time you are in a situation where you are not feeling as confident as you would like to be, channel your inner Barney (Neil Patrick Harris, NOT the purple dinosaur) and suit up!  Then think to yourself

“What would _________________(insert super hero name) do now?”

and actually become that person. Feel it, act it out, embody that confidence and believe that you are that person. If you practicing for long enough, you will find that you naturally become that person. 

I know that this seems like a bit of a flippant and crazy exercise, but believe me it is powerful beyond what it seems. YOU are powerful beyond what it may seem right now. I believe that everyone has a super hero inside them, it’s just about defining the very best version of ourselves and then tapping into that each time we forget. It’s definitely not an overnight job and it’s only one tool in your self development toolbox, but I encourage you to keep your Super Hero Manifesto somewhere close and read it regularly. Confidence isn’t a permanent state for anyone, but it can be cultivated with practice and called upon in times of need.   You too can be a super hero, of that I am confident.

To infinity and beyond!  Buzz Lightyear

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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3 Ways to Take Control of Your Life

In the wake of the anxiety that I have been feeling since quitting my job, I thought I’d venture into the world of video to share some strategies that I have been using to help me feel more in control and avoid overwhelm.

I hope that you benefit from them also.

I’m hoping to do a few more videos (as you can see, I need the practice), so if you have any questions are any subjects that you want me to cover, please let me know.

Thanks for being here.

Jane xx

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