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Taking Cold Showers (jasonshen.com)
125 points by jasonshen on June 10, 2011 | hide | past | favorite | 119 comments

I'll be the meta-contrarian (http://lesswrong.com/lw/2pv/intellectual_hipsters_and_metaco...) and disagree. If you believe that it's important to deliberately suffer to build character, at least do something that provides some benefit like vigorous exercise, or even rejection therapy.

Talk about first world problems, it's almost embarrassing that you have to seek out discomfort and the only way to do it is to take a cold shower.

Good point - if cold showers were the only thing you were doing to build self-discipline, that would be rather silly. I already work out almost everyday, put myself in uncomfortable social situations and other "character-building" activities. This is just one more thing I've added to the mix and that I'm sharing my thoughts on.

As someone who has taken many, many, many cold showers in Iraq and other unpleasant locales, if your character is so underdeveloped that taking a cold shower builds it up, you should be taking bigger strides.

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.

Hey Matt - thanks for your thoughts. I think mild is definitely in the eye of the beholder. Doing 50 pushups everyday would be a walk in the park for me - it might be absolute hell for someone else. A developer/designer might take 15 seconds to debug something that I could only manage after hours if not days of researching/Googling/struggling.

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.

I've been ending at least 80% of my showers with a minute or two of cold water since getting the 4 hour body a few months ago. It was definitely hard at first, then got easier, then got somewhat hard again (started to seem pointlessly masochistic), but all in all I feel it's been worthwhile.

suggesting they're "character builders" is painfully pretentious.

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[1] 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.[2] 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.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tohei_Koichi

[2] http://www.shinichitohei.com/english/2006/08/ki-breathing--1...

Irrelevant anecdote for first world 21st century residents.

Maybe not given the rate the First World is flying apart at the seams. I'm watching from the Third World, I've lived through a genocide, hyperinflation and massive social unrest and the signs in the US and Europe look horribly familiar.

Yes, indeed - real men build up character by punching themselves in the genitals, and then relaxing to a nice Nails-On-Chalkboard quartet for 15 minutes.

Funny, I started taking cold showers about a month ago, without having read any article about it. I guess because I was feeling unhappy for some time and I was annoyed from having so much comfort, like good food and warm water around me and not being happy, so I decided to ditch hot water. At first I used pure cold water (this was still the tale end of winter, so it would actually numb my skin) and managed to keep it up for about a week. After that my bad mood past, however I decided to keep up taking cold showers at a moderately cold temperature (still cold so you shiver and shrink but not so that it numbs your skin.

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.

I would recommend this habit especially to high school kids who bear the brunt of mass marketing from large corporations selling useless products.


I've been in the army. I've taken cold showers every day. Our commanders woke us up in 2am for a long run while carrying a rubber boat filled with water to the beach almost every day. When we finally got to the beach, we had to do push ups with our head inside the freezing water. I ran 20km carrying a fat man on a stretcher, cursing him under what remained of my breath.

Guess what? I still read HN instead of getting shit done.

Tolerance is only built on the same vector.

Wow... interesting. For some reason I would have expected that discipline to carry over. How long were you in the army? I'd be interested in asking you a few questions if you're up for it.

Sounds a lot like Kneipp's idea (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kneipp - was pretty popular in Germany when I grew up).

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.

Jason Shen said that voluntarily taking cold showers increased his discipline. Can you imagine a different experience if you chose cold showers instead of being forced to take them?

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.

Taking a cold shower lowers your body temperature, then your hypothalamus kicks in to compensate. You get out of your cold shower, and your body heats up. If you take a warm shower, you end up cooling down after the shower.

Not my experience. Sometimes I take a cold bath (ice is involved) after running. With enough ice, I feel quite cold for many hours after getting out -- to the point where I get out an extra down comforter to sleep with, and am still cold.

That means you have lowered your core temperature and your body is simply unable to respond to that coldness quickly. It's vital that you feel cold at that point. Quick cold showers are just "tricking" your body.

I have taken cold shower almost all my life. Initially because my home was not equipped with a hot shower and later as an exercise is self control when shower became available. It may have felt better if you either adopted to it or it was not forced in the first place. One benefit which I have experienced is that outside temperature feel less harsh once you come out of the shower.

I've noticed this, too. Once I step out of the shower and dry off, I actually feel unusually warm, perhaps because the cold water forced my body's internal heating mechanisms to start working harder.

Precisely. I was raised on 'Kneipp Kur' showers and I still do it every day. The thing is, its a lot more effective, if you taking changing temperatures. Hence, I shower hot first to get clean and then cold at the end. Makes you feel awake and also you won't freeze when you get out of the shower ;-)

It needn't be a shower. Meditation, yoga, and some forms of martial art work just this way. Each of them trains you to accept discomfort without reacting to it.

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.

The way I see it, learning to be uncomfortable is beside the point; it's about finding the positives, not ignoring the negatives. If you learn to be uncomfortable, you become complacent, and don't do things to improve your life in real, tangible ways, like, say, negotiating a better salary.

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.

I agree with you, except for

> 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.

>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.

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.

Interesting idea. Maybe I'll try it. I fear, though, that it'll just end with me lying in bed for an extra twenty minutes every day, not wanting to get up and face the cold shower.

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?

I am not a psychologist, but I've seen some interesting articles on how self-control is a semi-finite resource. The article linked to below was particularly interesting, as it even had a mechanism. Specifically, the participants' self-control was lowered when their glucose level was low and their glucose level dropped when they used their self-control


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.

I taught a course on the Psychology of Personal Change in college and there are papers that suggest that willpower resembles a muscle - in that it can degrade over time. But there are also other studies that suggest it can also be built up over time - like a muscle.

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.

Yep. Of course there's no particular reason to think that the muscle analogy needs to be accurate either way, though.

Hmm, it seems like the research is pretty thin at present. I'm going to file this under "slightly more likely to be true than not" until I see more information.

I have to agree. I have a nice morning routine that starts my day off right. If I tried to add intentional pain to that routine, it would not be a good thing.

This might be something to do on the weekends, or afternoons, or something... But not my mornings.

First there was Rejection Therapy and now this. I'm sure there's merit to this stuff but how many of these practices can one adopt before they transition from conqueror to masochist?

Fair question. I don't intend to come off as masochistic but I can understand if it appears this way. I'm just sharing something I've found to add value to my life and suggesting that others try it and see if it also gives them value.

I asked a friend of mine why he kept hitting himself in the head with a hammer. He replied "because it feels so good when I stop".

Cold showers just make me feel great. Never suffered of those.

I also use them after workouts, as described here: http://paleohacks.com/questions/995/what-is-the-deal-with-co...

"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."

Alternatively, take 20 seconds to wet yourself with water. fill a small bucket. Turn off water until the final minute when you wash off.

You don't have to keep the water running to stay cold, and you can save a bit of water in the process.

I applaud the general concept here but I think you're doing yourself a disservice if this is the extent to which you take this. Go take up rock climbing (toproping in a gym doesn't count), whitewater kayaking, or some other activity that will get you outdoors doing something involving real risk assessment and nontrivial consequences.

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 don't know, I've tried turning the water icy cold for the last few minutes of the shower (based on an Art of Manliness article), and it seems like trying to artificially create meaning in something very trivial.

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.

Timothy Ferriss' book, The 4-Hour Body, suggests cold water showers in the morning as a mechanism to rev your metabolism and burn more calories throughout the day.

Suffering is completely the wrong concept when one is considering the benefits of a cold shower. The biggest plus of a cold shower is the shock-effect that makes you alert and awake.

The true "character building" exercise here is publishing this article and letting the internet tear you a new one.

not merely publishing on blog, but then self-posting to HN and meticulously fielding questions. i guess it's all part of "character building" / entrepreneurial self-promotion

My dad used to tell me about the time he was in a cold, remote location (military), and he was the only one in their group who would take cold baths (from a snow-fed stream nearby); the others would warm up water and then bathe. The entire year he was there, he never fell ill; though the rest of the bunch came down with cold/flu with regularity. I know this is not scientific evidence, but just anecdotal.

Thanks for the article; I had forgotten about his story, and now will try to work in cold showers slowly.

I've been ending my showers with cold water forever, but that's just because it's good for your hair (I have a lot of hair). I have not experienced any other appreciable benefits.

I consistently take cold showers, and I actually really enjoy it. Has nothing to do with being tough. I just happen to feel a lot more awake post-shower, it's a lot more satisfying to dry off after (and when you get out of the shower, you aren't as cold), my skin feels better and Im quite possibly in a better mood. Also, if I have had a few drinks the night before, a cold shower is far superior than a hot shower.

I agree, I take cold showers because I enjoy them - they are far from torture! I think the bloke that wrote the article totally missed that. In winter I even take a cold shower - and always feel far warmer after - even if the water is like ice.

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.

A lot of commenters suggest to do something else instead of taking cold showers. I don't see the need to trade cold showers with anything as you certainly are able to e.g. lift weights AND take cold showers! Why not get the benefits of both?

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.. :-)

I've tried this twice in my life in the US. Both times I came down with fever. In India, you really want cold showers during the summer.

Indeed, it depends on the weather. When it's warm summer weather here, I take lukewarm showers. When I was in Italy, I took cold showers. What a relief!

If you're having problems loading, here's the google cache http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:2N7uwSF...

Thanks. I wish people would learn how to cache their own blogs so we don't have to depend on Google.

I have a normal warm/hot shower to actually wash, and then at the end I switch off the heat and have a cold shower for a minute or two. I definitely feel the better for it afterwards, although the effect wears off after half an hour or so.

The only problem is that in the summer, the `cold' water isn't actually very cold.

The idea upon which this is based is called hormesis. See:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hormesis http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radiation_hormesis http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caloric_restriction

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.

"life coach" baloney

Would you like to share some specific reasons why people shouldn't engage in cold showers? Or are you just going to make a personal attack that doesn't relate to anything I said?

Would you like to share some specific reasons why people shouldn't engage in cold showers?

Would you like to share some sort of science proving that taking a cold shower has some health benefit over talking a hot shower?

Well, not exactly what this is talking about, but after serious exercise, cold showers are better than hot showers for recovery purposes. Same reason applying ice works to reduce inflammation. It's basically a milder form of an ice bath.

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.

That's interesting. I didn't think about cold showers as a way to reduce inflammation but it's possible that the cold water acts as a mild anti-inflammatory.

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 never suggested that there was scientific evidence that taking showers has health benefits. I simply indicated that I've started taking cold showers, that I'm getting value out of doing so and that perhaps readers should try taking a cold shower and seeing if it also gives them value.

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.


I take lukewarm to cold showers often, half personal preference and half dermatologist-recommended. Hot water dries out skin pretty quickly and I end up with red, raised itchy skin over large parts of my body before I'm even done with my ~10 minute shower.

But I doubt that's why a lot of people are taking cold showers :)

Science is the attempt to make sense of the world based on observations and thought.

It does NOT have to happen in a laboratory, or in a study, or in any other Science Realm®.

No it's not. From Wikipedia: science is a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the world.

The key word is testable. Thought experiments are not science. Measuring stuff to disprove a hypothesis is.

Well, for one, I don't see how it makes you "stronger", "kick-ass", or "winning".

I've done cold showers at times (for medical reasons). I loathe them and only take them in desperation.

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.

I live by the beach, and every morning I get up and surf for 30 minutes to 1 hour. Getting in a hot shower after that is AMAZING, especially during the winter months.

Would highly recommend over a forced cold shower.

I frequently take cold showers between sauna sessions. Both are extremes, in the sauna I like the feeling of hot steam making my skin shiver just after a splash of water on the heater. In a cold shower I like the initial gasp for air and the shiver down my spine before I get used to it.

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.

To find resources on the positive (or otherwise) effects of cold water, search for the term Dousing: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dousing

There are scientific research on the topic as well, i.e. http://thesportjournal.org/article/impact-cold-water-immersi...

Hilarious! Anyone read the Wikipedia article about "The Junction Boys", a college football team that Bear Bryant took to the town of Junction, Texas in the middle of summer? He made them do grueling practice in the blazing heat, and withheld water in order to toughen them up. At the end of this brutal regimen, the players who were left went on to... continue to suck and lose almost every game in the season.

For about four months in 2007 I took cold showers. Over time I found I was touching the water less and less and was developing hygiene problems. Additionally, I was taking longer and longer to jump in so the time savings were eroding. So, I stopped. To this day I do prefer less warm water than I did before the experiment, though.

There was a study I read about where a large group of people where divided into 2 equal groups. The non-control group was had their body temperature lowered. The study showed those with a lowered body temperature got sick more frequently. I googled to try and find a reference, but couldn't locate it.

So, on the cold showers thing... no thanks.

Character building aside, I have always been baffled why people take hot showers during the summer. It's hot out. I'm hot. So I take a cold shower and it feels great.

When i grew up in india taking cold showers was very common, infact my dad till to this day shower mostly in cold water.

I wish I could take cold showers. Here in Florida, the water doesn't get much below 80 degrees unless you add ice.

Every time I take a cold shower, I get a raging boner.

Is there any physical basis for this, or is it a purely a mental thing?

Increased blood circulation in response to the cold could be a factor.

You're doing a reverse of the James Bond shower, which has you start warm and then turn to cold at the end.

I love sticking my head into a shower stream of cold water. Gets me really pumped at any time of the day.

Or lift weights. It has more benefits.

This layout of this page feels like they are trying to sell you something.

Also now their database is down. Oops.

My dad was a Marine, he said they took cold showers every morning. Toughened him right up.

What will happen when cold shower feels as good as hot shower, will you start sit on ice all day, find new ways to suffer to "grow stronger"?

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.

Coincidentially I had just taken a cold shower before reading this. But then, it's 95 degrees out; it's 75 with high humidity in the earth-sheltered house, and in these conditions a spring-fed shower is very welcome.

I'll bet this guy is going from an aggressively airconditioned room to a cold shower. No wonder it's unpleasant.

I love this. Somebody decided to invent and plant a meme and see just how gullible people are.

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".

Good luck getting a clean shave under those conditions.

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.

Good luck getting a clean shave under those conditions.

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.

Obsidian would actually be a pretty awesome razor material, come to think of it. From Wikipedia:

>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.

>our bodies are probably designed to buck up and shower in less-than-ideal conditions.

By this argument, our bodies are designed to die of smallpox.

Not even close. Smallpox is "designed" (over an optimization gradient) to attack our bodies. Although it would have been much more effective to not kill its host.

Showering is a practice that has likely had minimal selective pressure on our genes due to the relatively short history of the practice.

Yes, of course there are exceptions to every generality. Man also isn't conditioned to sit at a desk for 8 hours a day or eat highly processed foods on a consistent basis. This doesn't disprove his point that exposing yourself to a little bit of the natural environment is probably a good thing.

What? That completely disproves his point that "exposing yourself to nature is probably a good thing." You can't cherry-pick which types of nature you should expose yourself to -- you have to supply some other criteria.

Your analogy doesn't work because the author was not advocating experiencing death, just experiencing short-term discomfort that is supposedly better in the long run because humans could/should experience it. To use your words the author was indeed advocating "cherry-picking." Compare dying of smallpox to freezing to death in the Arctic Ocean. Compare taking cold showers to building up disease resistance by living in non-sterile environments.

"Reaching down and turning a knob, then telling yourself that you're building character? Odd."

Seems like something Calvin's dad would suggest.

e.g. http://30.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_lkypfyWBiK1qczkzxo1_250.jp...

That's the same advice that we hear a lot on HN though. "Get out of your comfort zone." How is this any different? By 'turning a knob' he is getting blasted with cold water, which is outside of his comfort zone. By doing it consistently, he is attempting to get used to living outside of his comfort zone.

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).

Hmm, "Get out of your comfort zone."

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.

> Where there are hot springs, there are happy, relaxed locals.

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.

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.

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.
No offense, but that response just makes you come off like a dick. Do you really think that he's implying that you 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.
Don't you have control over those too? You can turn back at any point.

No offense, but that response just makes you come off like a dick. Do you really think that he's implying that you work in the shower?

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.

You sound like someone that is afraid of cold water - if it seems so easy an puerile to you; why don't you try it.

Holy shit that's the worst reasoning I've seen here in a while. How about no, because, as the OP said, it does nothing meaningful, likewise with "proving I'm not afraid of cold water to a random dude on HN".

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.

Interesting analysis grasshopper. I have noticed though that you and many others assailing this idea offer no path or insight of your own to develop character. Just meaningless statements such as, "but that's not how it works in real life." SO wise one, please tell us how it works in "REAL LIFE".

I work in the shower. Great place for thinking.

So can you explain to us how one builds character then - how else is it (character or self-discipline) built but by resisting against a natural pull, thought, or reaction?

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.

I wasn't suggesting that taking a cold shower makes you like a Navy SEAL. I was suggesting that if you were training to become one, taking cold showers would help you prepare for the shock of BUD/S training.

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 was suggesting that if you were training to become one, taking cold showers would help you prepare for the shock of BUD/S training.

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.

The story is that Alcatraz had very warm showers for the inmates to prevent them preparing for the long cold swim to freedom.

Sounds like a benefit for the other 99.999% of inmates. Win/Win?

Removing context in order to make your argument more valid....real classy.

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.

The ability to discipline yourself with nothing but the power of your mind is one of the single greatest skills a human can have. Put the ice cream cone down, and pick up a book, then go to the gym then finish up that big project you started 3 months ago. It is the art of taking control of your own body even though it hurts. It's what separates kings from bums lying around on the side of the road.

"It's what separates kings from bums lying around on the side of the road."

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.

Sure. It's great. So why waste it taking cold showers?

This article is so completely pointless it makes my head spin.

Don't know why it's not mentioned, but it will also reduce your penis to subatomic lengths

Taking a cold shower _because_ it's unpleasant makes as much sense as cutting yourself.

Except for the physical scarring and potential for infection.

Why is physical scarring bad? Why is infection bad?

Humans dislike infection for the same reason they dislike cold showers. Pain is bad. Avoiding pain is good.

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