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.