The topic of cold showers is probably done to death. It’s become a bit of a trending topic in the industry of #lifehacks along with countless viral trends such as keto, intermittent fasting, nofap, dopamine fasting, and god knows what other catchy phrases YouTubers are able to get their hands on and use as shameless clickbait.
As with many of it’s fellow #lifehacks, you may be led to believe that cold showering will give you superhuman powers such as the ability to reach the front page of YouTube or cure cancer. In all seriousness, the brilliant and highly marketable Wim Hof has done much amazing work around the topic of cold therapy and you may be familiar with some of his feats.
Some of the claimed benefits of regular cold showers, many which are backed by science, include the strengthening of the immune system, boosted mood, increased alertness, and reduction of inflammation in the body. Whilst of course desirable, these are not the main reasons I choose to plunge myself under icy water every single morning.
My reason for taking cold showers draws similarities with some of the Buddhist and Stoic philosophies. It is something I do more as a tool for mental training rather than to afflict a series of physical reactions.
One of the principles of Stoicism is that of accepting the moment as it presents itself, and not allowing yourself to react or try to change, resists, or prolong what is, be it pleasure or pain.
Buddhist teachings, similarly, emphasize not resisting the moment, and training yourself to be a passive observer of the workings of the body and mind. There is a principle of suffering which states that suffering = resistance x pain . In other words, if our resistance to pain, physical, emotional, or mental, is 0, than suffering will be 0.
This principle can be put into practice quite easily by anyone who wants to test it, by the simple act of experimenting with cold showering. When I first started, I would tense up, resist, fear the icy cold blast all over my body, and I would suffer. Once I started practicing the law of suffering, and offering no resistance to the cold, not only did the suffering end, but it became a pleasant experience.
I believe this philosophy to be really helpful in many aspects of life. For me, it’s transforming the way I relate to anxiety, panic and depression. It helps work the muscle of acceptance, and break the pattern of resistance.