The High Performance Journal

I Did Cold Showers For 30 Days Straight. Here’s What I Learned…

circadian rhythm Feb 27, 2023

The High Performance Journal​ - ​February 28th 2023 ​

On a cold January day in Toronto, I woke up at 6am.

I did some breathwork then walked into a warm shower to start my day. After 5 minutes of washing myself awake, I saw the countdown on my phone starting to trickle down:

5, 4, 3, 2, 1…

Once it hit zero I twisted the knob all the way to the right.

Ice-cold water proceeded to spike onto my head and my body. I started to experience shortness of breath.

After 10 seconds I felt cold pricks on my skin. My head starts to freeze as if I gulped down a slushy way too fast.

This was the start of my cold shower journey.

Why Cold Showers?

I’m not a masochist but I need challenges in my life to keep things exciting.

Cold showers are nothing new but I’ve always avoided them because I love the comfort of a warm shower.

Yet, ever since  I wanted to find a new way to challenge myself.

Cold showers were right up my alley because they were hard to do and came along with some cool benefits.

Benefits of Cold Showers

The science-backed benefits of cold showers are:

  • It improves immune function
  • It may reduce chronic pain
  • It’s anti-inflammatory
  • It increases the amount of brown fat (having more brown fat increases metabolic rate and is associated with a lower body fat %)
  • It may have a neuroprotective effect through stimulating a special cold shock protein known as RBM3

On top of these health benefits, many people claim it has other benefits such as:

  • Reduced levels of stress
  • Increased willpower
  • A higher level of alertness

There are many benefits to taking cold showers but are they actually real?

Here's What I Learned After 30 Days of Cold Showers

Lesson #1 - Liquid courage

It takes a lot of hutzpah to turn that knob. I used a countdown timer starting from 5 minutes and I found this to be helpful in committing to the cold.

The habit of doing something when it’s time to do it is a superpower in todays world.

In a weird way, this gave me courage to cut the amount of time I take to take action and to just do them.

Lesson #2 - Feelings of well-being and enhanced mood

My mental alertness and mood were elevated.

This is most likely due to the large amount of dopamine that’s released through cold exposure.

After doing a cold shower I felt like I just had a cup of the best coffee in the world.

This feeling would last for the greater part of my morning and had a relaxing effect once it wore off in the afternoon.

Lesson #3 - My Heart Rate Variability Improved

Heart rate variability (HRV) measures the variation of time between your heartbeats.

It is a marker that shows you how stressed and how recovered you are from day to day.

A low HRV means high stress and a high HRV means low stress.

After doing cold showers my HRV increased by about 5%

A few recent studies have revealed that cold exposure improves HRV because of the release of endogenous dopamine and norepinephrine.

Either way the better my HRV is the better I feel on an everyday basis.

Lesson #4 - Decreased stress and anxiety

Due to the changes in my HRV and release of dopamine I found that I was going through the day with more ease.

Things I would stress about would be easier to deal with and I found myself worrying less than usual.

Maybe this was a placebo effect. Maybe not. Most things don’t seem that stressful when you’re able to better handle it.

Lesson #5 - Diminishing returns

To feel the same effects as I listed above I needed to increase the time I exposed myself to the cold.

I started with 15 seconds and kept on having to increase the length of time every week to feel the same feeling.

Your body gets used to the stimulus you place upon it. Just like weights or anything else we want to get better in we need to do more to elicit the same gains as before.

What Next?

It was hard but after a month, I’ve completed my challenge.

So what’s next?

I don’t know yet. I love starting my mornings with a nice warm shower and the thought of forcing myself to expose myself to the cold seems like torture.

But the benefits are undeniable.

As the saying goes,

“Hard choices, easy life. Easy choices hard life”

I think at some point if I continue this I will have to move to do a full-on ice bath to derive the same benefit.

For now, I will continue on this journey for the simple fact that doing hard things (that have benefits) is a net positive.

What about you? Have you ever thought about taking cold showers? Reply back and let me know. I'd love to hear your opinion.

- Dan

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