It all started by accident. I've been aware for some time—but have more or less chosen to ignore—the fact that cold showers may have positive elements to them. In fact, the practice has been shown to boost your immune system, increase circulation, stimulate weight loss, and even help treat depression. I probably first read about it on Byrdie, seeing pitch emails come through my inbox a couple of years ago. Since then, the subject has come up in conversation (and reiterated by my yoga teacher, who insists it's how we each should start our day), but nothing could convince me to try it. While I'm usually up for giving healthful practices a spin, the idea of subjecting myself to a cold shower, on purpose, exceeded the level of effort I was willing to make to better my health.
My temperature preferences go something along the lines of the hotter the better. Be it early morning or just before bed, I love feeling the hot water envelop and soothe my tired body, steam rising around me lulling me into relaxation. Turning down the temperature, even just a tad, is enough to make me shudder. So, the idea of showering in icy waters has been pretty much out of the question.
Luckily, life has a way of pointing us in the right direction when we're too chicken to take the leap ourselves. Last week, I ventured to the Finger Lakes in Upstate New York to spend the long weekend at a friend's family cottage. My boyfriend and I stayed in the garage apartment—perfectly quaint and cozy but the hot water didn't work for two days.
And so it began. Gingerly easing my body under the shower head wasn't easy. As soon as the first jet of cold water hit my skin, I wanted to abandon ship. But I forced myself to step up and commit. After what felt like the first minute had passed, the visceral reaction subsided and my tense muscles relaxed. I actually felt refreshed in a decidedly invigorating way.
By the time I walked down to the cottage, freshly showered and fully dressed, I felt noticeably more energized and ready for the day (despite the fact I was nursing a hangover and hadn't even had my first cup of coffee). Every part of my body felt awake and more agile, even my back and neck (which usually feel tight and crunchy in the morning). I was sold.
Even when the hot water in the guest house was eventually fixed, I kept the dial on cold. Returning home after the weekend, I made a point to stay dedicated to my newfound healthful practice and not fall back into my old habits. It's now been a week and I can say with certainty that cold showers have upgraded my mornings—and days.
I'm by no means a morning person and tend to feel sluggish for the first couple of hours in the day. That said, kicking things off with a cold shower awakens and energizes me like coffee never could. Instead of working through creaks and cramps and aches and pains, it's almost as if my muscles and joints get a revitalizing reset with every shower. I usually suffer from dry skin no matter the season, but dialing down the temperature when I shower has made a huge improvement. What's more, the inevitable end-of-shower shiver that comes with taking hot steamy showers (like I used to) is gone. It's funny to think that to enjoy all these benefits, the only thing I had to overcome was myself. A cold shower is a baby step in the path of doing things that aren't easy but are really good for you, and I'm glad to be going in the right direction.
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