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The Zen of Cold Showers

The Zen of Cold Showers

Yeah, they kinda suck. Not gonna lie.

For many of us, a shower is a safe haven of relaxation, spa-like therapy, full body warmth and of course getting lost in deep philosophical thought.

The last thing you’d want to do is turn that into a panic of survival.

And that’s exactly how cold showers may sound at first. Turning a heaven into a somewhat frozen hell.

At least it did to me.

But as is what ZenSense stands for, I am a firm believer in turning everyday routines and activities into spiritual enlightenment. Or at least as close as we can get.

Turns out, there are many, many related physical, mental and emotional health benefits to the infamous cold shower. Here are the majority of the benefits I came across (source):

Benefits:

  1. Gets you hella present
  2. Forces you into discomfort in order to be more accepting of it
  3. Increased alertness
  4. Amazing for meditation
  5. Inspires better breathing
  6. Better decision maker
  7. Improved will power
  8. Eases stress
  9. Relieves depression
  10. Puts you in a good mood
  11. Stimulates weight loss
  12. Better skin
  13. Improved blood flow
  14. Better immune system
  15. Muscle recovery

Wow. What a list.

After reading about these I almost had no choice but to give it a shot.

And it turned out to be one of the biggest challenges of mind over matter ever.

Gotta say I wasn’t really a fan at first, but now I get some twisted pleasure over bathing myself in ice water once a day.

I still kinda hate it.

But I also love it.

I’ve been doing it (almost) daily for a few months now with the odd day off here and there.

Here is what I’ve learned so far and what works best for me personally.

1. Don’t hop in cold right away.

Do a 1 minute “cold plunge” at the end.

So the first step was actually convincing myself to do it.

A lot of people hop in cold right off the bat and go 10+ minutes in ice cold water from the start. I am not there yet.

Hopefully one day.

So instead, I tried my method of the “cold plunge” as I call it. Have my regular warm, steamy shower of cleanliness and deep thoughts and at the end as I’m about to leave I make the plunge.

At this point you may try to convince yourself out of it, thinking that it’s not worth it and you don’t wanna put yourself into that sort of pain.

And I get it.

You are wrapped in a cozy blanket of soothing warm water and the last thing you want to do is turn it to ice.

This is where the Zen first kicks in.

Stop thinking about it and just turn the temperature knob (or lever or whatever your shower control looks like) to maximum cold.

I’m from Canada too, so maximum cold is COLD here especially during the winter. No excuses.

And then just stand. Be present.

You will be tempted to jump around in a panic and maybe even scream but be as still as you can.

Be still. Be calm. Be in the moment.

Which brings me to my second point.

2. Breathe deeply the entire time.

Focus on your breath the entire time. Don’t think about how this frigid water feels like it’s giving you frostbite, ‘cus it’s not.

Breathe in and out.

This is where the art of meditation kicks in.

When you are under that level of discomfort you really have no choice but to bring intense presence into that moment.

I then turn my body, lift my arms and try to cover as much of myself in cold as I can.

Just as soon as one area of my skin is starting to get adjusted to the cold, I turn and let it touch a different area.

Feel the sting. Be fully present to the feeling.

And then it’s back to the breathing.

3. Best. Meditation. Ever.

And this is exactly why a cold shower is one of the best meditations of my day.

A quick concentrated burst (usually around 60 seconds) of intense presence as I stand there in the cold.

If I’m already taking a shower everyday (ideally) might as well find some way to use it to improve my day-to-day consciousness.

That’s the ZenSense way of course.

And then this inner presence is carried on throughout the rest of my day.

4. Step out and feel amazing after.

Once I’m done my full minute (I do 60 seconds, but you can easily start at 30 or even 10 and move up from there) I get out and feel amazing.

I don’t know if it’s the intense meditation or the feeling of relief from the cold but when I step out of that shower I feel really super good.

Like I’m fully READY to take on my day.

It’s awesome.

It’s this sort of present moment awareness as I feel every square inch of my skin slowly starting to warm back up.

This warming up of the skin brings a nice body awareness to me, if only briefly which is ideal for meditation.

As long as I hold my focus on the feeling, I can even carry it out throughout my day. Bringing a nice level of consciousness into everything I do after.

People may think that exposing yourself to concentrated bursts of cold is bad for your health, but in fact it’s quite the opposite.

5. Don’t get sick as easily

So I haven't been getting sick as often recently which I gotta attribute in part to my daily plunges.

Apparently exposing yourself to cold water frequently improves your blood circulation.

Which in turn pumps more blood into our organs for better health. It also lowers blood pressure, clears blocked arteries, and improves our immune system.

Who knew.

6. Your skin will shine

Cold water also makes your skin contract, tightening your pores.

And with tighter pores you are less prone to getting dirt inside of them, which leads to clearer better looking skin.

Cold water also avoids stripping our skin of natural oils that keeps it from getting dry and stays vibrant and healthy.

Helps tighten the hair follicles on your scalp to better grip your hair so it doesn’t fall out. And nobody wants that. 

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There it is, my experience of cold showers combined with the very general knowledge of what I’ve read about them.

I would recommend you to try it at least once, even for 10 measly seconds.

If you have some resistance inside of you against doing it, GOOD!

From a Zen standpoint, resistance is more of a reason you should do something, and it implies dissolving the resistance and therefore accepting the present.

A mini lesson in mindfulness in the form of a cold shower.

It’s been doing well for me for now, and I know I will continue this habit for as long as I can.

Perhaps I will even be able to survive longer than 2 minutes eventually.

Then 10 minutes.

Then I’ll swim across the Arctic ocean.

Baby steps right.


Filip Zieba

Executive mind wellness enthusiast from Toronto, Canada supercharging your mind with a modern take on mindfulness and Zen culture that just makes sense.