Cold Showers are Essential
I’ve been writing about taking cold showers for at least ten years now, and they are a primary practice in my e-book The End of Social Anxiety (not that I remember much else of what’s in that e-book, mind). I began trying out the Wim Hof method around five months ago and, while I was not particularly enthused by the breathing practice, the return to daily cold showers gave instant results and I have kept them up ever since, even throwing in the occasional cold bath. I think the cold exposure is probably the main working component in Wim Hof, though I admit I only tried the breathing method for a week or so (it just didn’t do much for me).
A daily cold shower has the following benefits:
- It will cool you down if you are hot.
- It will heat you up if you are cold. This thermal effect lasts several hours.
- It improves mood via endorphin release and vagus nerve activation.
- It reduces stress and anxiety via hormesis, a process in which the body creates an adaptation to a toxin or stressor (in this case, the body becomes resistant to stress through exposure to low-level thermal shock).
- It will wake you up quicker in the morning.
- An additional cold shower before bed induces sleep quickly because, as explained by this sleep expert, circadian rhythm is actually more strongly tied to ambient temperature than it is to light.
The positive mental effects of a cold shower last for several hours afterwards. Meditation is far easier and more productive during this time.
The colder the shower, the better. You are aiming to expose every bit of your body to cold, until it stops being uncomfortable. Unfortunately, most electric showers heat up the water a little bit, even on the zero setting (still, this is better than nothing). A cold bath, however, will take water at mains temperature, which is usually pretty cold, especially here in England. A few minutes spent under cold water is all that is needed to get the benefits.
I have known about the endorphin response from cold water exposure for at least 30 years, because I experienced bliss every time after swimming in the sea on holiday. I also sleep with the window open even when it’s cold outside, because it produces a kind of hibernation response which induces rapid deep sleep. Interestingly, I had my temperature taken recently as part of the UK’s COVID “Track and Trace” programme, and it was 35.9°C, which is low compared to the average 37°C. I hardly ever feel cold.
Wim Hof’s own research is fascinating and is well worth a quick look on YouTube. Through cold exposure, he was able to climb Everest wearing only climbing boots and shorts.
Even the lamestream media is getting on board with cold water therapy, as reported on left-wing women’s blog BBC News: Sea swimming is ‘amazing’ for mental health and menopause
Cold showers are one of the quickest, easiest, and most powerful lifestyle improvements we can make, and are probably the closest we can get to a “magic bullet” in this area.