Would you start your day, every day, by taking part in the ice bucket challenge? Few of us would be willing to take an ice bath even on a hot summer day. But many days, especially during the coldest months, I find myself dreading getting out of bed to start my day. That’s because I begin my workday with a fairly unorthodox ritual: I take a cold shower.
In a day and age where cryotherapy is gaining popularity, and where you can literally freeze the fat right off of your body, taking a cold shower in the morning doesn’t seem that out of the box. But it’s a habit that took me a long time to adopt. Typically, you want to get out of bed and head into a comforting, warm shower. It’s almost like you’re going from one bed to another — and that’s a perfectly fine way to start your day.
Changing it up, though, has afforded me some unanticipated benefits. The truth is, I started my arctic shower odyssey after reading an article in the New York Times about it. I didn’t think much of it at the time, but one day (during August, for what it’s worth), I decided to give it a shot. After finishing my typical shower routine, I would slowly decrease the water temperature and see how long I could stand it.
Before I knew it, I had adopted the whole cold shower routine as normal. And now, it’s an important part of my day. There are several reasons why I have chosen to make it a permanent part of my routine. Here are five of them.
1. Helps ward off sickness
While there’s little concrete evidence that cold showers lead directly to stronger immune systems, there is data showing that they lead to healthier workers. One study found that among 3,000 people who started their days with a cold shower, there was a drop in absences from work due to sickness by 29%. How has this worked out for me? I do get sick from time to time, like everyone else. But it’s also very rare that I will need a full day in bed to recover. I feel better, in a general sense, and that helps me bounce back faster.
2. It’s energizing
I used to feel sluggish until I had a cup of coffee in the morning. Now, a cup of coffee helps me retain the energy I do have. I pop out of the shower, throw on some clothes to warm up, and I’m ready to rock. I can make sure the Keurig is pumping out the black coffee, and start thinking about what tasks and challenges I’ll be facing throughout the workday. After you’ve experienced a test of will the absolute first thing in the morning, you’ll feel unstoppable.
3. There are numerous physical benefits
A cold shower doesn’t just wake you up. They have several physical benefits as well. I work out, so many days, I wake up with some level of muscle soreness. Believe it or not, an icy shower actually helps alleviate that soreness to some degree. It also helps with stress relief by boosting or lowering the levels of certain chemicals in your bloodstream. So, if I’m grappling with something mentally (Bad dream? Mean email that came through overnight?), the cold water helps me focus on something a bit more primal.
4. I’m more productive
Previously, turning on the computer and sifting through emails wasn’t something I looked forward to. But feeling alert and energized, I’m ready to jump right into it. My inbox wishes it could hide from me. Like a farmer prepared for harvest, unsolicited emails and whatever tasks I have set out for the day are cut down quickly and efficiently. That is, until I start to slow down and enter my normal workflow.
Then, I take my mid-day break to hit the gym. That helps me maintain momentum going into the afternoon hours.
5. It provides some psychological momentum
Often, this is the worst part of my day. Nobody wants to wake up in the dead of winter, meander through a cold apartment and then get blasted with jets of cool water. You dread it. But it’s also a chance to push through a challenge and persevere first thing in the morning. Once you’re done? You can chalk up a victory for the day, and focus on other things.
If you start your day off with a serious mental and physical challenge, overcoming it will have you ready for anything. Of course, a cold shower isn’t a “serious” challenge — it’s pretty inconsequential. But it’s a great way to test yourself and get in the right mindset for the rest of the day.