Cold Showers

Let’s do value arithmetic. 

1) If A is objectively more valuable to me than B, and I have to choose between A and B, I should choose A.
2) I should always follow 1; unless A becomes less valuable the more I do it; or if 100% A is actually less valuable than 90% A and 10% B, even though the first 10% A was more valuable than the first 10% B.

Now let’s compare cold showers (shower tap turned as cold as it can go) to warm showers (anything besides the former). First I need to prove 1 is true, then I need to prove 2 is true. I can’t take a cold shower and a warm shower at the same time (based on the first sentence in this paragraph), so “I have to choose between A and B” is true. That leaves objective value…

Exhaustive list of possible subjective/objective benefits of warm showers:

1) Pleasure: This is vague, though. I can get pleasure from many things, for many reasons. 

2) Mental/physical relaxation: A valid benefit. 

I really can’t think of any others. Since most people assume cold showers are just uncomfortable and painful and not fun, they see the benefits of warm showers as a free bonus. There is no perceived reason to choose to cold shower, since warm showers have objective/subjective benefits, and cold showers apparently don’t, and have some negatives (discomfort). 

But assumptions are funny things ^_^ Let’s go. Oh, by the way, I was a wimp for a while, wanting to try cold showers but too scared to do so. I finally gave in, and have had at least one ten-minute cold shower every day for almost two months. It feels really hard for the first few seconds, but then it becomes surprisingly bearable. And after a few weeks it becomes a habit and it is only hard for the five seconds it takes to get yourself in the shower. If you want to, you can do it!

Long-but-probably-not-exhaustive list of subjective/objective benefits of cold showers:
(Assume I got all of these from here. It is my main source. I will quote a lot, since the paragraphs get to the point really well. If I quote and don’t mention another source, it is from this one.)

1) Pleasure: Yes! Cold showers are fun! In a different way than warm showers, maybe. But that is irrelevant. Whether it is the feeling of developing self-control and conquering a challenge, mastering your body, or simply a chemical/physical reaction. I’ve got at least as much pleasure from cold showers. Guaranteed. 

2) Mental/physical relaxation: Okay, maybe I just wanted to word it the same way as for warm showers. But really. Even though the cold isn’t “relaxing” per se, there are definite mental and physical benefits. Including this:

“Exposure to cold is known to activate the sympathetic nervous system and increase the blood level of beta-endorphin and noradrenaline and to increase synaptic release of noradrenaline in the brain as well. Additionally, due to the high density of cold receptors in the skin, a cold shower is expected to send an overwhelming amount of electrical impulses from peripheral nerve endings to the brain, which could result in an anti-depressive effect.” – source

The study mentioned wasn’t large enough to be conclusive, but from my own experience, it is undeniably true. 

[Those favoring warm showers most likely will insist here that the benefits of 1 and 2 from warm showers are greater than the same from cold showers. Even if that is true, which my experience contradicts, there are more benefits to cold showers. Read on.]

3) Better Immune System: There are many studies that show this. Look it up if you doubt. Shivering from cold water immersion leads to increased metabolic rate, leading to increased plasma concentration, as well as T helper cells and lymphocytes. “In Sweden, it’s common practice to let small babies take naps outdoors in the cold. These babies have…been shown to be more resistant to diseases”

4) Fat Loss: “When your body is exposed to cold, it requires more heat to warm you up. To do so, it has to process more energy and, in doing so, helps you burn more fat, more efficiently. It can also activate “brown fat”, which is a sort of good fat that helps generate heat, increase your metabolism and burn fat.”

5) Better Blood Circulation: “Cold water exposure over time is shown to improve circulation. Since cold exposure causes your blood flow to be redirected to your vital organs, it forces your body to circulate your blood more efficiently and effectively.”

6) Better Temperature Regulation: “Regular cold showers help limit heat loss, decrease core body temperature and regulate overall body temperature.”

7) Healthier/Nicer Hair and Skin: “Cold water helps “close” pores. This keeps your skin looking smooth and healthy while not drying your skin out as hot water showers can do.  The cold water helps keep your hair shiny and your skin soft, rather than itchy, ashy and dried out.”

8) Increased Lymphatic Movement: “The lymphatic system takes waste away from your cells to help fight disease. It’s separate from your blood vessels, but is moved around by the contraction of your muscles. Cold showers cause your entire body to contract and this forces the lymphatic system to push the lymph fluids throughout your body so that they don’t pool in one part of your body as they would if the lymphatic system were compromised or inefficient.”

9) Decreased Inflammation: “Ice baths have long been used by elite athletes to help decrease inflammation after a workout…When you get out, your system is flushed with fresh, nutrient-rich blood that can help repair muscles and tendons.”

10) Better Breathing: “Cold showers can force you to breathe deeper by forcing you to momentarily pause and hold your breath as a sort of automatic reflex when the cold water hits. This helps open up the lungs (just like physical exercise does) and helps bring in more oxygen.”

11) Better Sleep: “In Sweden, it’s common practice to let small babies take naps outdoors in the cold. These babies have not only been shown to be more resistant to diseases, but they also seem to sleep deeper and more soundly.” And “Insomniacs are advised to take cold showers to aid their sleep. This might be because the feeling you get after the initial shock of the shower helps your body calm down and relax.” I’ve personally experienced this as well. Taking a cold shower just before sleeping also lowers your core body temperature, making it easier to get to sleep. Around 65 degrees Fahrenheit is the best room temperature for sleeping in.

12) Higher Stress Tolerance: “In general, cold exposure gives your body a higher tolerance to stress. Over time, this leads to the strengthening and hardening of your body and immune system (as we talked about earlier).”

13) Flexibility: If there is no hot water wherever you happen to be, no problem! If you need a quick wash in a freezing river, no problem! If you want/need to cut water heating to save money, no problem!

14) More Energy: Not only is cold water immersion amazing at waking you up and clearing your mind, but it actually increases your energy levels. Your skin’s nerve endings are stimulated, and your heart and breathing rates increase. 

15) Self-Control: Maybe one of the most useful and versatile benefits, a straight-up virtue. What better way to practice self-control than a free, ten-minute, once a day cold shower that has 14 other benefits? Sounds amazing to me 🙂

Even if you convince yourself you can discount half of these benefits, the remaining ones still make cold showers vastly more beneficial.

This list proves 1 fairly easily. Cold showers are both objectively and subjectively more valuable than warm showers. Now, number 2. The benefits of cold showers don’t decrease the more you get them. The benefits of warm showers aren’t magically greater than those of cold showers when included in some magical proportion. Use any other examples with the same reasoning, and it is plainly ridiculous. The benefits of cold showers are directly connected to our physical makeup, and the nature of reality. You can’t use some wishy-washy metaphor like “But I get more value when I vary the food I eat.” or “At some point, the value I get from hobby X diminishes and I want to do something else.” Look again at the list of benefits. They don’t have anything to do with emotions/feelings/preferences/interests/desires. Whether you like it or not, your body reacts positively to cold water immersion, objectively better than to warm water immersion. 

Oh, and yes you have to turn the tap as cold as it goes. All of these benefits require cold water, not luke-warm or almost cold water. You won’t get hypothermia. It isn’t TOO COLD. The variance between showers and seasons and regions doesn’t matter. Those are all excuses. After a few seconds, your body adapts to the temperature and it doesn’t matter how cold it is. You will get used to the feeling, and it will just be. It won’t be painful or uncomfortable. You will know you are cold but not feel it as biting pain. It’s a rather delightful experience. 

Tips: As soon as you get in the shower, put your head under the cold water. Then, get your whole body wet and cold. Continue rotating and wetting your whole body. Think of it as a sort-of game, trying to keep as much of your skin as cold as possible. After a minute at most it gets a lot easier – after that first minute, ten minutes is as easy as two. Other things: I only use soap about twice a week, and only under my arms and between my legs. Other species don’t need regular, soapy, scrubby cleaning, so neither do we. A total water-rinse each day is more than enough. For deodorant, I’ve started using a mixture of bicarbonate of soda and coconut oil. Armpit hair is good, don’t shave it off. I cover my armpit hair with a pea-sized amount of the mixture, and I don’t even smell after sweaty exercise in the heat. I don’t need a lot, and it works really really well. And I don’t have to worry about weird chemicals, and it doesn’t smell obnoxious or toxic. I don’t use shampoo at all. 

Conclusion: If you were offered one of two, completely free, medical prescriptions, one with the benefits of warm showers, and one with the benefits of cold showers, which would you choose? Presumably you are already paying for (or receiving for free) water and heating for warm showers. Cold showers aren’t more expensive. Relatively, you can have all of the benefits of cold showers for free. Right now. The only reason to refuse…is what?

Fear?

Dependence on Luxury?

A fortress of comforting lies?

Relearn what it means to be human. Tear down the excuses and fears. Warm showers aren’t the default. There is no default. There is only a choice. A choice between something better, and something worse. Both objectively and subjectively. Will you become the type of person who always chooses the better, the best, no matter what?

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