The first thing I thought when I heard about this “cold shower” and “cold plunge” trend: No way I’m doing that.
Which immediately caused me to wonder why not.
“But Matt,” you say, “leaping into cold water sounds silly, stupid, maybe dangerous, and totally uncomfortable.”
That part about discomfort is the key.
All the other judgments are rationalizations after the fact. The stark truth is, we avoid doing the extreme because we don’t want to feel uncomfortable.
Calling it silly and dangerous gets you off the hook. You call it ridiculous and stupid and silly to save face, make yourself think you’re better because you’re smarter than that.
What I do is, at the end of a nice hot shower, I flip the dial all the way over to “cold” and then focus my attention as the ice-water hits.
It sucks hard for about two seconds as the survival-mode panic reflex kicks in.
Once the electric shock settles down it runs smooth.
I let it go for about 60 seconds, aiming the water at the back of my neck to activate the vagus nerve. Besides all the effects on health and mood from hitting that vagus, there’s another reason I do this.
It has to do with what I call “The Leap”.
When you face anything that you perceive as difficult, challenging, or uncomfortable, your conscious mind will start coughing up excuses.
That’s hard. That’s dangerous. That won’t feel good. You can’t do that. And so on.
The fear and the doubt feel more real than the actual reality.
The truth: a brief moment of discomfort
The fear: this is going to suck so bad oh man I cannot handle this I can’t do this let’s call it off.
The point of the cold shower is to stare those feelings and thoughts in the face and do it anyway.
That’s a skill.
No different from when I told everybody to squat to a max every day of the week. There’s the reality, and then there’s the fear. Confronting your own anxiety is the master skill that opens up many doors.
I’m not the best at this myself, which is why I’m always looking for opportunities to “say Yes” and spit in the face of anxiety.
I call it the Leap because it’s like when you jump across a gap. Only this leap happens in your mind, when you face the unmeasurable distance between Here and There and decide to cross it. Even when your own mind is telling you that you can’t do it.
There’s a whole lot of things that become possible once you realize that the only thing stopping you is in your own head.
Fact is, growth and positive change always come with anxiety and fear. Growth is not comfortable. Confronting the head-game is an essential skill.
If you’re one of the very few capable of listening, learning, and committing to the work, click here.