Lately, I’ve had so many ideas but no time to write. Here we sit watching Lion Guard, Carson’s favorite cartoon, while I feed Will. I’m asking myself…what would it look like if it were easy? What would it look like if I could just sit down and put my thoughts to paper? For perspective, I was up twice in the middle of the night feeding Will who’s just over two months old. The last thing I want to do is write because I’m exhausted. All I really want to be doing is exactly what I’m doing, watching cartoons with my boys. That got me thinking, man I wish I had something to fire up my creative voice. Fire up my nervous system. I wish I could do something to wake up my mind so I can write. I know what I could do if it were easy. Think about your life, is there something that you’ve been wanting to do that you haven’t started? Why haven’t you started? Are you like me and overthink things? Is the planning process taking too much time? I’m sure that doesn’t sound like you, or does it?
I’m thinking about how great it would have been this morning if I could have taken a cold shower. A cold shower you ask? Yes, a cold shower. It’s one of the best ways to fire up your nervous system in the morning. Especially when you haven’t been getting regular hours of sleep per night because you have a newborn. It was an idea that was brought up to me through my internet musings, the idea of taking cold showers early in the morning to wake up my nervous system. Sounded kind of crazy to begin with because who wants to take a cold shower? On the other hand, I had heard of the benefits of cold showers while listening to podcasts and other smart fitness people. The idea here is not to lower inflammation like you may think, but goes way back to years when we were bathing ourselves in cold water such as rivers or lakes because that’s all we had around us. There is something very primal about taking a cold shower in the 20th century.
The hardest part is just starting to do it. Trying it out is the first real roadblock. When I take showers in the morning the best part is standing in nice hot water. I always thought it was the heat that woke me up but in reality, the cold showers really wake me up. I didn’t even think about trying out cold showers until one of my employees brought it to my attention and told me to find the lowest effective dose. What does that mean? Lowest effective dose in the simplest form is where you can see the most benefit with the least amount of effort. In this case, what would be the shortest amount of time under the cold water to cause the greatest amount of benefit? I have tried to do two minutes of cold water at the end of my hot shower in the morning. Just two minutes. You can do anything for two minutes.
I asked myself when would be the best time to start an experiment like this. Don’t we all ask ourselves that? We look for the perfect time to start. Is there ever a perfect time to start? The quick answer is no! Since I like to contradict myself sometimes and I procrastinate with the best of them, I decided to look for my perfect time to start. I knew that coming up would be the most trying time of my life because we were about to embark on raising a second child, so I knew that I was going to be exhausted all the time. The best time to see if this truly worked would be the first few months with our newborn son and that’s how I convinced myself to try two minutes at the end of every shower. Sometimes trying something new is more difficult by us thinking about it and not doing it. We build up the new habit in our head so much that we don’t even try it. If you find a reason to try it, then more than likely you will give it a try. This reminds me of one of my favorite ways to look at the world, a good system that you will do is better than a perfect system you never start.
So day one after we came home from the hospital, I decided to try out cold showers. Today was going to be the day I’m going to do it. At the end of the shower, I turned down the water where it got fairly cold. I squeezed every muscle to try to stay warm and it was hard to stay under the water for two minutes. Fortunately, for me, I was trying out another breathing technique where I counted to four breathing in and counted eight breathing out. I cycled through that 10 times which I figured was about two minutes, and then jumped out to grab the towel, easily the worst part of this experience. The cold water is bad but getting out freezing is even worse. Once the shivering stops it feels like you’re alive. No matter how tired you were before the shower, now you’re wide-awake. What sold me on it was the fact that I didn’t need my second cup of coffee after getting out of the shower. I even realized that the cup of coffee that I depended so much on to get my day started was turning into more coffee in my to-go mug. Did I lose you there? I know, sounds crazy right? Who wants to get out of the shower totally freezing and shivering. If I lost you that’s OK but bare with me a little longer. Once I got over feeling like a dripping wet ice cube, I could recognize how great this experiment was and how much it affected my morning routines. Now let’s look back at when I started this. I used to just stand in the water, but now I let the water pour over my head and my shoulders. It’s much more intense, but the benefit is that much greater. I don’t do the breathing technique anymore either. All I do is hang out under there until I really start to get cold and I know that it’s been two minutes.
Fast forward till now and it’s been eight weeks of doing this. It’s one of those things that you get used to and now I couldn’t live without starting my day with a cold shower. All I had to do was try it once. I’ve even tried it on a Saturday afternoon after working outside all day when I’m totally exhausted and it wakes me up for the evening. To think I wouldn’t have even found the benefit if I hadn’t tried it. If all I did was try to plan this experiment, to make it perfect, to try and fit it in my life, I’d still be planning. I would still be thinking about it. Think about what’s in your life right now that you’ve been wanting to try but for whatever reason haven’t tried it yet. This is where I always tell myself you should’ve started yesterday. Don’t wait for tomorrow because you could feel the benefit today. Don’t get me wrong, some things take a long time to see the benefit. However, two minutes under cold water at the end of your shower is not one of them. Now you may not want to try this and I get that. But this is about what you’ve been thinking about trying. You’ve been thinking about that new habit that could change your life for the better. You’ve been thinking about climbing that mountain of good habits. Stop thinking. Start climbing and jump in that cold shower.