Many people are familiar with the therapeutic qualities of saunas and steam rooms. However, far fewer are brave enough to turn the temperature the other way and make cold showering their latest wellness practice. While it sounded unpleasant at first, after reading some of the reported effects of cold showers on the body and mind, I was determined to give it a go.
My 7-Day Cold Shower Experience
Despite having researched the many benefits of cold showers, I was feeling pretty hesitant when it came to trying one for the first time. I decided to start slow and take baby steps.
Psyching myself up by starting the shower with my regular warm setting, I then stepped out from under the stream and turned the dial to cold. I wasn’t quite brave enough to step right in, so I stuck with splashing myself gradually all over.
While the experience wasn’t pleasant, it certainly wasn’t as bad as I expected, and woke me up significantly.
On day two I was ready to take things up a notch.
This time, I stayed under the stream as I gradually turned the water temperature down from a regular warm shower to a colder setting – eventually spending 60 seconds in the cold water.
I quickly decided I’d reached my limit. The shock was unbelievable – my chest felt constricted with panic and I was left breathing heavily and dancing around to try and warm myself up. Not my finest cold shower moment.
After the discomfort I felt the previous day, I was all but ready to give up on my cold shower journey. I wasn’t sure my body was built for this kind of endurance.
However, after doing a little research, I realised my mistake and decided to give it one more chance. While 60 seconds is enough to feel the shock and discomfort, it isn’t long enough to calm down, adjust, and feel the benefits of cold showering. So, rather than take the easy route and turn the temperature back up, I decided to push myself to attempt a longer stint.
This time, I began my shower warm but gradually turned the temperature down to cold while focusing on deep breaths and staying still. I managed to spend three minutes under the water! When I got out, it took me a while to warm back up and I was shivering slightly – but the sense of achievement was exhilarating.
After a slow and groggy mid-week wake-up, by Wednesday my cold shower provided the kickstart I needed to bring energy to my day.
Thursday & Friday
Starting with a tepid temperature, I gradually decreased to the coldest setting, staying in for a whole three-and-a-half minutes.
On Thursday I’d done a particularly tough workout and expected to feel the burn on Friday. Despite being initially sceptical about the muscle recovery benefits cold showers are claimed to have, I genuinely felt much fresher and less achy than I’d expected I would when I woke up. When I got in the shower later that morning, I lasted four minutes! Now I felt like I’d cracked the cold shower code, I was quickly gaining confidence in the raving testimonials I’d read prior to the challenge.
On day six I was finally making my way to the shower’s coldest setting. I managed to brave a whole five minutes under the icy cold stream. I was invigorated by both the cold and the pride of my accomplishment and appreciated the rush of energy it gave my morning.
By Sunday, I was very invested in the challenge and actually looking forward to my cold shower. This time, I braved the cold straight away with no gradual cool down and managed to stay in for seven minutes!
The difference I felt from day one to day seven was significant, and the progress I made in building my endurance made for an overall rewarding experience. While I’m not sure ice-cold showers will be an everyday event for me, I’ll definitely be taking them regularly after workouts or before particularly busy days.
How Did Cold Showers Benefit Me?
While everyone’s experiences with cold showering will be different, these are some of the positive impacts I felt after the seven-day cold shower challenge.
Energy and Mood
It turns out that getting out of the right side of bed and rolling straight into a freezing cold shower is the formula for a good day. The more I approached my cold shower with positivity, the more energised, alert, and upbeat it left me feeling.
Skin and Hair
The impacts of cold water on my hair and skin were subtle but noticeable. I usually suffer from fairly dry and sensitive skin, and turning the temperature of my shower down did a lot to prevent it from dehydrating – banishing feelings of itchiness and irritation.
My hair was left healthier, shinier, and revitalised. I found I needed to wash it less often. Without exposure to heat, it produced fewer oils.
While more peaceful practices like yoga and Pilates probably spring to mind when you think about mindfulness, cold showering was a surprisingly meditative experience. I found it very grounding - reconnecting the mind and body through overcoming a joint physical and mental challenge.
The most unexpected and valuable benefit I got from cold showering was a sense of achievement. Pushing myself out of my comfort zone and enduring discomfort reminded me of my own strength and left me confident in my ability to take on other challenges.
Is This Challenge for You?
Cold showering may sound like a physically uncomfortable experience at first. Before you decide it’s not for you, try the seven-day challenge and see if it changes your mind. If there’s one word of advice I’d give to anyone thinking of giving this a go – it would be to persevere. As tempting as it is to sack it off, the newfound resilience it gave me made the challenge so worth it. Just take it slow and keep note of any differences in mood or energy you feel throughout the process, so you can figure out if it benefits you personally. Good luck!