Edit: point being, cold showers are such an unbelievably mild form of suffering that suggesting they're "character builders" is painfully pretentious. Surprised this blogger of all people wrote this. He knows suffering.
As I mentioned in the post - I really like warm showers and hate being cold. For me, it really was quite difficult to force myself to take a cold shower. It's now much easier.
You're right, I have gone through intense suffering - dislocating your knee, tearing all 4 ligaments and undergoing 5 surgeries will do that to you. So please have faith in me when I say that this activity was a challenge for me, was highly uncomfortable at first and required substantial willpower.
I offer my experience as something others can draw from and suggest that this might be worth doing.
No, it's just clear that the author has a wider understanding of the issue (and more compassion) than you display. It's like criticizing people for only being able to do a couple of pushups when they first visit the gym. The fact that they keep going to the gym and working at building strength is the important part, not how many repetitions they start out with.
Recently deceased Aikido master Koichi Tohei was a sickly child and had to take a year off from high school because he had pleurisy. Being forbidden to exercise, he started improving his character where he could: getting out of bed quickly and bathing by dumping buckets of cold water on himself. He would later wind up leading troops in battle, so he hardly strikes me as a wimp. But since he would later stress that simple beginning exercise in some of his writings, just maybe he and the blogger aren't so "painfully pretentious" as you think.
So in conclusion I'll mention my results after a month. First of all, I feel good about it, and I never intend to go back to warm indulgent water. I feel like I got rid of an unnecessary comfort, second after about two weeks I felt like going back to warm water but the power of habit had already kicked in so I stayed with cold water. Third, Like mentioned in the article, the panic response to cold water is gradually going away, and soon I'll probably notice it flow into other areas in my life.
So I think It's a quick and effective way to develop discipline and even self esteem. I would recommend this habit especially to high school kids who bear the brunt of mass marketing from large corporations selling useless products.
Guess what? I still read HN instead of getting shit done.
Tolerance is only built on the same vector.
Having been forced to take a week of cold showers due to a malfunctioning heater I can't say it made me any stronger. It just made me feel pissed off and not properly clean.
I don't feel like I've properly had a shower unless the shower has raised my core temperature, but I'm going to give this a try. The easiest life hacks are ones that don't require a time commitment and only minor changes in routine.
There's a Buddhist story where a student asks a teacher about the secret of correct practice. The answer: "Don't move." Meditation hurts. A lot. Your legs ache and often fall asleep, your lower back gets stiff. But you're not supposed to move. Over time you do become more flexible, but more importantly you learn to accept the pain without needing to fix it. It turns out that if you can focus on the moment, the pain isn't so bad - it's actually the fear of the pain lasting into the future that causes you stress. As Shunryu Suzuki (founder of SF Zen Center) said: "Don't move. Just die over and over. Don't anticipate. Nothing can save you now because you have only this moment."
But there's nothing uniquely buddhist about this... My Berkeley tai chi instructor loves to have students hold postures for extended periods to the same effect. You move past this point where you think you're going to collapse and suddenly find a way to relax further into the form. And any serious yoga student will tell you that holding yoga poses for them accomplishes the same thing. Sounds like the cold shower had a similar effect for Jason.
It's not macho, magical, or new agey - it's just a practice - though one that may seem odd in our can-do, fix-it-now culture. As we grow we learn that not every problem can be fixed, and devoting time to practices like these can teach you to be okay with that.
If there's a problem you need to solve with a method like this, that's great, but I would hesitate to recommend that people regularly incorporate unpleasant things into their daily life for the sole sake of them being unpleasant. That ultimately leaves you with less understanding of not only how to lead a pleasant life but also of how to improve the lives of the people around you, this latter goal being the core of entrepreneurship. E.g. if you try to use nothing but `cat` to edit files, you will never design a better text editor. If you walk to work, you won't be able to contribute to advances in vehicle technology.
Ultimately I think our goal as humans is to reduce that sort of thing, not to increase it; otherwise we might as well revert to nomadic tribalism. To quote Edward Abbey:
One final paragraph of advice: do not burn yourselves out. Be as I am — a reluctant enthusiast... a part-time crusader, a half-hearted fanatic. Save the other half of yourselves and your lives for pleasure and adventure. It is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it. While you can. While it’s still here. So get out there and hunt and fish and mess around with your friends, ramble out yonder and explore the forests, climb the mountains, bag the peaks, run the rivers, breathe deep of that yet sweet and lucid air, sit quietly for a while and contemplate the precious stillness, the lovely, mysterious, and awesome space. Enjoy yourselves, keep your brain in your head and your head firmly attached to the body, the body active and alive, and I promise you this much; I promise you this one sweet victory over our enemies, over those desk-bound men and women with their hearts in a safe deposit box, and their eyes hypnotized by desk calculators. I promise you this; You will outlive the bastards.
> If you walk to work, you won't be able to contribute to advances in vehicle technology.
Are you implying that walking to work is an 'uncomfortable' thing like taking a cold shower? I may be misunderstanding you there, but I , for one, hate sitting in a car and suffering through morning-hour traffic jams. I hate searching for a parking spot. I much rather take my bike to work. You know, not to work out, but to breathe fresh morning air for once. To enjoy the sound of birds. Riding your bike, or walking, is exactly what that nice quite of yours is recommending.
You can advance your vehicle technology as far as you like, but if that vehicle will be used for a distance that you could easily walk, it will never be effort well spent.
No. I just needed to pull out some example. There are some situations in which driving is more pleasant than walking -- consider someone who works at a ski resort in the mountains, in the winter -- and situations in which walking is more pleasant than driving. Either way, by doing what you can to improve your living conditions you build an understanding of what "improved living conditions" might look like.
Some say that willpower is like a muscle, and that the more you use it the more you develop it. On the other hand, maybe willpower is more like... a muscle, and if you use it too much on any given day then it just gets worn out. Will a cold shower before breakfast be followed by donuts for lunch?
Thus, the cold shower might not just be followed with donuts for lunch, but the lunch donuts may be necessary to skip having heroin for dinner.
To re-iterate, I'm not a psychologist, so take all of this with a grain of salt.
Would you say that doing pushups in the morning is a bad thing? Yes, you're more tired later in the day, but if you keep doing it, you'll get stronger and stronger.
This might be something to do on the weekends, or afternoons, or something... But not my mornings.
I also use them after workouts, as described here:
"Invented by the French and used by virtually every elite athlete on the planet, it is often confused with some kind of torture. Right after working out, hop into the shower. First, cook yourself for no longer than 5 minutes in hot water, relax, get those blood vessels well dilated. Then slowly add cold water to the mix until it's so cold you can't stand it. Endure it. Focus the water on the back of your head and the muscles you just worked. Feel the blood vessels constrict. Stay under it for as long as it takes to really cool off - 2 to 3 minutes. The time it takes to cool down will increase as you adapt, and the temperature for cooling will decrease. Then, switch the hot water back on. The blood vessels will dilate, and inrushing blood will flush the lactic acid out. Start the cooking process again. Repeat at least two cycles and finish on cold. This induces a tonic effect and you'll rebound, flushing again as your body warms up in your clothes."
You don't have to keep the water running to stay cold, and you can save a bit of water in the process.
If you're anything like me you'll find your attention to detail increases dramatically. Your ability to shrug off daily stresses will also increase. Compared to being gripped out of your mind 120 feet off the ground it's pretty hard to take some guy cutting you off in traffic seriously.
Whatever you do, keep pushing your boundaries. Good luck!
I think there's value in changing things up so you don't get too comfortable, but to me this is about as meaningful or important as changing which brand of deodorant you use. Instead, I'd recommend things like going to see a play, listening to a new genre of music, taking cooking classes, etc.
Thanks for the article; I had forgotten about his story, and now will try to work in cold showers slowly.
I run hot showers occasionally too. Though I never have any compulsion to leave the shower, I just want to stand there. The other thing is it never feels hot enough!
Try it, just start with cold. You might even like it.
If nothing else, taking cold showers at least prepares you to having a swim in cold water (in a hole in the frozen sea) while attending sauna during winter time in Finland.. :-)
The only problem is that in the summer, the `cold' water isn't actually very cold.
The basic idea is that our ancestors were under stress so often that we evolved beneficial processes that kick in during times of stress, and only times of stress. Without the right environmental cues our bodies won't do the right thing. Imagine having to red-line your car for a few seconds in order to start the automatic oil-change.
Would you like to share some sort of science proving that taking a cold shower has some health benefit over talking a hot shower?
That said, taking cold showers and bragging about is kinda... dunno. In my mind, cold showers are something to be paired with other physical discomforts (like beating your body up to the point where the physiological benefits of a cold shower actually matter), not something to just do for the sake of doing. It's kinda like discipline gravy. Wonderful along with something, but disgusting by itself. But this is coming from an athletic background. I guess whatever makes you feel like a boss, makes you feel like a boss.
I was a gymnast for 16 years but alas my "beat the crap out of myself" days are over for now and I don't need to multiple parts of my body before walking out of the gym. I guess part of the reason why I like cold showers is that I miss the opportunity to struggle with and overcome strong feelings of discomfort.
I've linked to another blog post that suggests there are health benefits - I encourage you to read it, perhaps look for others and form your own opinion.
But I doubt that's why a lot of people are taking cold showers :)
It does NOT have to happen in a laboratory, or in a study, or in any other Science Realm®.
The key word is testable. Thought experiments are not science. Measuring stuff to disprove a hypothesis is.
Trivia that the HN crowd is unlikely to know: Ending showers with a brief bit of cold water is supposedly something French women do to keep themselves perky.
Would highly recommend over a forced cold shower.
I do remember reading something about intensive chilling would improve my immune defense, but that just made me start doing this. Now I do it because it feels good to have some ice cool water after 10 minutes in the sauna giving you a slight fever.
There are scientific research on the topic as well, i.e. http://thesportjournal.org/article/impact-cold-water-immersi...
So, on the cold showers thing... no thanks.
Is there any physical basis for this, or is it a purely a mental thing?
Also now their database is down. Oops.
Cold water itself might be healthier or not but without data, this practice sounds pointless and if we generalise the idea and boil down to suffering to grow stronger it sounds down right ridiculous.
I'll bet this guy is going from an aggressively airconditioned room to a cold shower. No wonder it's unpleasant.
I'd image than several months later the authors will be laughing their posteriors off reading all the retweets, blog posts, and journals about people following the "procedure".
It sometimes amazes me what people think constitutes adversarial conditions, and testing oneself. Reaching down and turning a knob, then telling yourself that you're building character? Odd.
By the way, I loved the comments. They read like something I would have written as a twelve year old. "I'm like a Navy SEAL because I beat myself up every day with a cold shower! I'm tough!" My favorite is paleo guy:
But I also do it due to the paleo/primal lifestyle I’ve been adopting—the fact that we didn’t evolve bathing with the convenience of hot coals or temperature faucets and and that our bodies are probably designed to buck up and shower in less-than-ideal conditions.
Except that you'll find that frequency of bathing, and bathing as a social and relaxation mechanism, directly correlates with availability of hot water. Where there are hot springs, there are happy, relaxed locals.
It works great when shaving with obsidian chips. I like yak butter as a shave lotion: let it ferment just a bit for a subtle scent and extra moisturizing.
>Because of this lack of crystal structure, obsidian blade edges can reach almost molecular thinness, leading to its ancient use as projectile points and blades, and its modern use as surgical scalpel blades
see also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Obsidian#Current_use
You wouldn't want to use volcanic chips, of course, but now I want to pitch this to pg. I mean, used in scalpels? Shiiiit.
By this argument, our bodies are designed to die of smallpox.
Showering is a practice that has likely had minimal selective pressure on our genes due to the relatively short history of the practice.
Seems like something Calvin's dad would suggest.
Just because he's talking about a cold shower instead of a start-up and a bunch of comments on his blog are by "I'm a macho man" types doesn't somehow make this different.
update: Maybe the idea that 'turning a knob' is somehow a low barrier is the issue here? I would say that the real barrier is sticking with it and not bailing out of the cold water (jumping out of the shower, quickly turning the water off, etc).
That might be the case for a few days. However, after a few weeks taking cold showers becomes a habit and part of someones new comfort zone. I guess randomly replacing one shower a week with a cold shower might take longer to get used to, but it's still meaningless IMO.
PS: As someone that used to regularly swim in water colder than most peoples tap water I can say it's not really that big a deal until your core temperature drops and a normal shower is not going to do that.
Some people feel they work better and are more motivated when they're not in a state of happy relaxation. Comfortable and focused perhaps.
> "Reaching down and turning a knob, then telling yourself that you're building character? Odd."
The detail that is important is not the knob, but the endurance of a blast of cold water. (Note: the following is a ridiculous stretch) Saying the issue is 'turning a knob' reminds me of pundits and Senators saying that waterboarding is "pouring water over someone's nose". Standing under coldish water on purpose is a spartan message to your subconscious.
I don't work in the shower.
The detail that is important is not the knob, but the endurance of a blast of cold water.
I believe that you have missed my point. Turning a knob, over which you have complete control, really isn't subjecting yourself to anything meaningful. You're not pushing your limits. You're doing silly things and calling it personal progress.
Go climb a mountain. Or even a challenging rock. Commit to a period of time living in a developing nation, or any place drastically different from your home. Join the Navy SEALs. Do not, however, turn the shower tap to 'cold' and then blog about how you're growing as a person as a result of it.
>> Some people feel they work better and are more motivated when they're
>> not in a state of happy relaxation. Comfortable and focused perhaps.
> I don't work in the shower.
> Turning a knob, over which you have complete control, really isn't
> subjecting yourself to anything meaningful.
> Go climb a mountain. Or even a challenging rock.
The opposite interpretation is that one is perpetually showering/tubbing in order to be in a state of relaxation. That is equally absurd.
You can turn back at any point.
That depends entirely on the situation. There are plenty of ways to climb, backpack, etc. where one has no choice but to continue. Less ridiculous climbing may involve social pressure to stay committed. Furthermore, all of these activities involve, as has been said elsewhere, real personal gain: strength, health, mental well-being, and real life experiences. Getting yourself chilly for five minutes in the morning is just playing around.
Can you think of a true story of someone saving a person from icy water (something meaningful) and saying as the defining point "Yeah, I totally bitch-slapped that cold water since I'M A MAN."? Hollywood likes to use it as a cheap 'challenge to overcome' (again though with the meaningful goal of advancing the plot), but that's not how it works in real life.
Edit: you argued elsewhere that it could be a 'tree in a forest'. Maybe in general. But not in this specific case. Cold water for a few minutes in the morning is not even a sprout.
The Spartans to General Patton used similar techniques in building the character of their troops and their fruits cannot be disputed.
The author is not claiming that this only will build character, but this is a small tool to to work on building character yet another way. Alone perhaps it would be meaningless, but taken together with his other approaches it can lead to significant results. It may be only a tree in the forest and it takes trees to build a forest; this method can be one of those trees.
Or if you like, to return to the analogy of resisting something in order to become stronger: This is just another exercise, like the plank (among many), that used alone may not produce much; but taken together with a whole exercise program WILL make ones whole body stronger.
But I guess you couldn't be bothered to read my post properly. For someone who has such strong opinions, you sure do lack reading comprehension skills. Removing context in order to make your argument more valid....real classy.
I sincerely doubt it. The point of BUD/S is that it pushes recruits way, way, way past anyone would push themselves. Constantly getting wet-and-sandy is only one aspect of it, and one 10 minute shower a day is not preparation for being wet and cold for, literally, a week.
Actually, no, I was paraphrasing what my imaginary twelve-year-old self would say, based loosely upon what you claim to have said.
Regardless, what you claim to have said is, frankly, stupid. Cold showers will not prepare one for Navy SEAL training. A statement like that is precisely as dumb as what twelve-year-old me would have said.
Since kingship is, by definition, hereditary, I'm pretty sure that what separates kings from bums is largely a mere accident of birth.
Just as we have evolved with an unrealistic perceptual bias to see lions in forest shadows - thinking you see one where there isn't one is low cost, failing to see one when there is one is a potentially lineage-ending move - we've also evolved to think that we have much more influence on the course of our lives than we do.
We have limited self control; our conscious minds can really only inhibit unconscious impulses, and that only to a limited extent. Nevertheless, we've evolved to believe that we have much greater control than we do so that we continue to try to exercise the limited control that we do have, rather than not trying at all because we see our distinctly limited self control for what it is.
This article is so completely pointless it makes my head spin.
Humans dislike infection for the same reason they dislike cold showers. Pain is bad. Avoiding pain is good.