On the first Friday of school in September 2017, I was looking for a news article to use in AP Spanish class that would spark a lively discussion and help us get comfortable debating things in Spanish. The first article that caught my attention was about a guy who swore that he hadn’t been sick in 10 years, and he attributed it to taking cold showers. The idea of cold showers was not new to me; I had heard of a few friends and colleagues that did it as mortification, but this was the first I had heard about it for health reasons.
The discussion in class about the article went well, but the class was not convinced that taking cold showers was a great idea. I challenged all of us to try it for one weekend to see if we could get some data to back up our prejudices, but I was also interested for two additional reasons. If you have read enough of my previous articles, you would know that I like to try to be both more efficient and save money, something I was sure that cold showers would help with as I didn’t expect to run the shower extra long at uncomfortably cold temperatures.
Thus, the experiment began. I certainly didn’t enjoy the showers, but I felt better about myself for accomplishing perhaps up to four goals (health, mortification, saving time, saving money) at the same time.
At class the next Monday, I learned that most of the class did not even try the experiment. Two students said they tried a cold shower but it made them feel sick, so they gave up on those grounds. Only one student did it both days, and when I asked him what he thought about the change, he replied that he wouldn’t know, because he had already been taking cold showers.
Although I failed to convince my students, I was determined to try this for as long as I could…
September went well. I was enthusiastic, the weather was still warm outside, and I tried convincing as many friends and family members to join the cause as possible. I didn’t have any success. One family member even went so far as to send me articles that claimed to disprove the health benefits.
October and November were pretty miserable as the temperature outside, in my house, and the water in my pipes all seemed to get colder. However, I definitely was saving water, as that shower never ran for more than two minutes. Interestingly, there were some nights where I went to bed with a little scratchiness in the throat and thinking that I was about to get sick, only to wake up in perfect health in the morning.
As December rolled around, I started almost getting used to it, so I decided to keep taking showers for all of 2018 as my New Year’s resolution. I immediately regretted that decision, but I stuck with it. I also got sick in 2018… three times. In fairness, each time that I got sick involved not getting much sleep, so I am convinced that a combination of good sleep and cold showers is still great for your health, although future experiments seem to confirm that sleep is definitely more important than cold showers.
I made it through the year, and I was very happy to stop on New Year’s Day, 2019 because it never really did get easier to do. I still try to take cold showers from time to time, because I know there are several good reasons for doing so, and although I don’t want to go through that misery, I feel way better about myself after… like how most people feel about going for a run. I am sorry to say that I am too weak to take cold showers on a regular basis, but when I do, I feel great afterward.
So, What is the Point?
Good question. I think if we can find more than one reason to do something, it will make it more likely for us to accomplish the uncomfortable task. For example, if you ride your bike some places instead of driving there, you can 1) improve your health, 2) offer up to God any physical discomfort that you might experience, 3) save money on gas, and 4) help the environment. You might even save time. Although not saving time on the journey, which will almost certainly take you longer than in the car, at least you won’t have to use that time at the gym later (also saving you more money). Another benefit is that when we condition ourselves to periods of discomfort voluntarily, it makes any unexpected discomfort much easier to handle. We then complain less, which everyone appreciates.
Other ways you might accomplish some or more of these goals at the same time:
- Walk places instead of driving (health, mortification, money, environment)
- Eating something simple at home instead of going out (health, mortification, money, environment)
- Growing a garden instead of buying all your veggies (health, patience, money, environment)
- Going to the public library (money, education, gaining independence, research skills, discovering something new)
- fixing something broken at home instead of hiring a professional (money, building real-world skills, learning to research and diagnose problems)
- take cold showers! (Come on, give it a shot!)
A Sacrifice with Multiple Upsides
I love the idea of finding multiple benefits to accomplishing something, because it helps convince me to do some things when, thinking of only the most obvious benefit, I find it really hard to do. For example, many nights after dinner, I look at the dirty dishes and think “This doesn’t look fun, and I do not like things that are not fun, so I should try to avoid washing the dishes”. However, I then remember that doing the dishes so that someone else won’t have to do them is a good deed, and good deeds are on my list of things to do before going to bed. Additionally, I need 10 minutes to plan my day out for tomorrow, and I can do something mundane in the background while I plan out that day. Now I have three reasons to stick around in the kitchen and wash the dishes, and it doesn’t seem like such a bad idea.
Find your cold showers—the things that you could or should do but don’t want to, and then figure out how you can make them seem like really good uses of your time.