The Cold Shower Approach to Developing Mental Toughness

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I’ve got a proposition for you. Listen to what I have to say for a minute and I will give you the formula to achieve the best feeling you ever felt in your entire life. Deal?

You may wonder what the catch is. Well, to achieve that amazing feeling, you first need to feel uncomfortable for a few minutes. It’s not going to be painful, just uncomfortable. You’ll feel like giving up but, if you manage to push through that discomfort for just 2-3 minutes, you will be rewarded with the most amazing feeling you have ever felt.

The best part? This method works every single time. Every. Single. Time.

Pushing Through Discomfort: The Many Benefits of Cold Showers

I can assume you know where I’m going with this. I mean, you saw the title of this article, right? Yes, we are talking about cold showers, but I’m a man of my word. I promised to teach you how to achieve the best feeling ever and I am not going to disappoint. If you open your mind a bit, I’m going to deliver exactly what I promised.

If your reaction to my proposition was a shrieking delight, followed by high-fiving yourself and doing a happy dance in your underwear because you’re excited to achieve the “best feeling ever”, then keep on reading.

So, cold showers. You’ve probably heard of them. Maybe you’ve tried them a few times. Maybe it’s been a long time since you gave them a shot and you’re anxious about getting back to it.

No matter where you are mentally, I’m going to help you push through that discomfort and emerge on the other side like a motherfucking beast.

So let’s start with the most obvious question: Why in the fuck would you ever want to submit your body and mind to what sounds like the most terrible idea ever? I mean, covering yourself in water so cold you’d probably get a brain freeze if you drank it? Is this supposed to be some form of self-applied hazing?

Well… that was what I thought, at least. But as it turns out, cold showers have a long history of all kinds of health benefits. Here is a rundown of some of the most important ones (all references are at the bottom of the article).

  • Improved blood circulation
  • Faster physical recovery after exercise/playing sports
  • Helps you deal with depression
  • Helps you lose weight (by burning fat)
  • Wakes you up and gives you an energy boost throughout the day
  • Increases emotional resilience

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg (pun intended). Even if you don’t care about any of these benefits, cold showers are a great idea because they allow you to step out of your comfort zone in the most private way.

Let’s say that, for example, you’re shy and afraid of talking to people. No matter how much you ignore it, there is no substitute for simply biting the bullet and walking up to a stranger. But let’s say that you’ve been trying to do this — and I mean, really trying — going out every week, walking around for hours trying to muster up the courage, yet you chicken out every single time.

You feel stuck. And I know how terrible that feels, as I’ve been exactly in your shoes. So how do you get unstuck?

As I explained in my book about overcoming social anxiety, The Social Gladiator, the way to overcome the initial fear of social situations is to gradually increase your tolerance for being uncomfortable. By doing things outside of your comfort zone on a small level, you are eventually more comfortable doing this on a much higher level.

Cold showers are a great way to do this. Even though they’re not the easiest idea to wrap your head around, they’re surprisingly effective for building mental toughness. The same goes for overcoming other mental-related issues, be it insecurity, anxiety, or general feeling of weakness.

Taking cold showers is uncomfortable, so training yourself (and let’s be honest, it is training) to face your fears and embrace discomfort is going to make you a stronger, tougher, and happier person. Not only that, but you get to take advantage of all the health benefits that come with embracing the cold.

The best part? You can do this in the comfort of your own home.

The Best Feeling In The World

If you’re a coffee drinker, you how much of a kick caffeine gives you. And when I say “kick”, I mean a literal kick. It’s like someone filled up a shotgun with alertness, pressed it against your skull, and blasted it against your brain.

WOOOOOOOAH! SO FOCUSED! LET’S GET TO WORK, BABY!

If you’re not a coffee drinker, you can feel a similar effect when you’re hyped up on too much sugar. (Why do you think little kids have so much energy?) Be it caffeine, sugar, or cocaine, the result is the same. You take your drug of choice and BOOM, you feel more focused and alert.

At times, it can be really helpful. When you’re hungover from a party or pulling an all-nighter for an exam, a little boost goes a long way. And hey, drinking a cup of coffee every morning or eating chocolate makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

Even if you’re not consciously aware of it, these things make you feel good. And over time, they make you feel great. But too much of a good thing can indeed be bad. Too much coffee can make you jittery and anxious. Too much sugar destroys your teeth and your figure. Cigarettes, cocaine, energy drinks… all of the things that give you a sudden burst of energy eventually make you addicted and lead to undesirable side-effects.

The cold shower, on the other hand, solves this problem. If we ignore all of the many health benefits once again (but honestly, why should we?), cold shower is the most natural and powerful energy boost you are likely to ever experience.

I know what I’m talking about too. I’ve been an avid coffee drinker for most of my life, sometimes drinking as much as five extra-large cups per day. But nothing comes close to the energy boost you get from a single 5-minute cold shower.

Once you experience it for the first time, it’s hard to go back. It truly is (arguably) the best feeling in the world. And unlike sex, drugs, or love it is consistent. It never fails. It always delivers the same exact amount of pleasure.

The only trick, as I mentioned in the beginning, is that you’re willing to sacrifice a few minutes of discomfort to get it. But it is so absolutely worth it.

Yes, it’s going to suck at first. You know that at the moment ice-cold water hits your body, you won’t care about any of the health benefits you read about. You won’t care about the energy boost or mental toughness. All that’s going to be on your mind is: “Aaaaaaaaa!”

But that’s okay. Cold showers can’t hurt you. Even though it can feel terrible at first, you have to remember that they are not dangerous. (Barring any preexisting conditions like cardiovascular disease or heart problems. If in doubt, consult your doctor, but for most healthy individuals, cold showers carry no intrinsic risk).

If you’re excited to give it a shot, here is how you can properly adapt yourself to cold showers and build mental toughness.

How to Take a Cold Shower (Without Losing Your Mind)

The first time I tried a cold shower, I did everything wrong. I saw a post on some random Internet forum claiming that cold showers can give you a confidence boost and make you feel more alert during the day. So I decided to give it a shot.

I got in my bathtub, turned on the water, set it to the coldest setting available, and sprayed myself with it. Five seconds later, after a lot of screaming and jumping around, I stopped the water and got out.

This traumatic experience led me to never try another cold shower for the next five years.

I’m sure many people make the same mistake. They think that taking a cold shower means suddenly exposing yourself to the coldest possible water you have available. When they try this approach, they become traumatized, proclaim that “cold showers are stupid” and never give them another shot.

To avoid making the same mistakes, here is a down-to-earth way to experience why cold showers are praised so much.

Step 1: Make a Decision

It seems kind of obvious, but it’s more important than you may think.

Remember, cold water itself doesn’t pose any real danger. The greatest obstacle in your way is your mind. The fear of discomfort. And the only way to get yourself to actually take a cold shower is to push through that fear.

So ask yourself: “Why do I want to take a cold shower?”

There are multiple answers to this. Maybe it’s for the health benefits. Maybe you’re doing it as a challenge. Maybe you want to see what all the fuss is about. Whatever it is, pinpoint your own, personal “why”. That “why” is going to keep you going when the going gets tough.

For me, I view it as a test of mental toughness. Nothing motivates me like facing my fears, knowing I will come out victorious.

Step 2: Start the Shower

The time is here. You’re taking a cold shower.

You’ve made the decision. You’ve stripped your clothes off, jumped in the shower and you’re beating your chest like King Kong. It’s on. There’s no going back.

Okay, now what you’re going to do is set the temperature to lukewarm. That means not to hot but not too cold either. This is where you start. Now, you’re going to take a normal shower and spray your entire body with water.

Not bad so far, right?

Step 3: Push Through the Discomfort

This is where things get interesting. Once you’re all wet (hehehe) and comfortable, it’s time to start lowering the temperature. But do it slowly.

Make the water colder just a little bit: enough so you feel the difference, but not so much that you can’t handle it. This is your move. Your one-two punch. This is the big secret to cold showers: slowly lowering the temperature.

Keep in mind that the entire shower should last no longer than five minutes. So after 10-20 seconds, it’s time to go colder.

Now, as the cold increases, you’re probably going to start hyperventilating. In other words, you will start taking short, fast breaths. This is normal. However, if you let this get out of control too much, you can start to feel dizzy. If at any point you feel like you’re not well, stop the shower and sit down.

To prevent this, when you feel like hyperventilating, focus on taking slower, deeper breaths. This will keep you focused and make sure you don’t start panicking.

It’s at this point when you will most likely feel like quitting. You’re shivering, you’re uncomfortable, and your fast breathing only leads to increasing your anxiety.

You’ll start thinking how this isn’t really necessary, how you’ve managed to stay healthy despite taking cold showers, and how you’re an idiot for listening to some guy on the Internet. This is where you must think back to your “why” you defined in Step 1.

Remember, you’re just taking a shower. There’s nothing to be afraid of. Even though this step may feel the hardest, it will last much shorter than you think it will. And if you manage to stick with it for only about one minute, you will break through the other side and begin to truly enjoy your cold shower.

Step 4: Enjoy

Once you break through the initial discomfort, you will realize that… you’re okay. You’re better than okay. In fact, you will amazing.

The first time you experience this, you will be confused. Moments ago, you were anxious and uncomfortable. Yet somehow, you managed to conquer your fear and transform yourself from a tame little sheep to a motherfucking beast.

When this happens, you will even want to stay in the cold. Maybe not the first few times, but you will definitely remember the feeling. On top of that, you will feel proud. You will feel an amazing sense of accomplishment that you went through this ordeal and pushed yourself out of your comfort zone.

Your skin will glow. Your body will feel invigorated. But the most important changes will be the ones inside your own mind. You will feel calmer and more focused. You will feel more emotionally stable. And your mindset will feel as if it’s made of fucking steel.

Your body will be pumped with an unprecedented amount of energy. It will feel like a triple espresso mixed with gun powder and shotgun shells. To this day, I can’t help but yell out — literally, yell out “WOOOAH!” — every time I finish a cold shower. It’s that powerful.

Now, if you don’t experience the same level of excitement the first few times, that’s okay. Like most things of this nature, it takes a while to get used to it. The first time you exercise, everything hurts. But as you get used to it, each new workout can feel more amazing than the last. The same goes for cold showers.

Taking cold showers on a regular basis will increase your confidence and strength in other areas of your life as well. You will feel calmer. You will feel tougher. You will be ready to take on the next challenge because, hey, you’ve already done one. Why not another?

The more you do this, the easier it will become. It all starts with a choice. What’s it going to be?

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