The Benefits of Cold Showers (AKA…Scottish or James Bond Showers)

Tony Robbins is standing in front of an 18 degree plunge pool which he jumps into every morning.
Tony Robbins and one of his Cold Water Plunge Pools (sign says 18 degrees…wow)

The first time that I heard anything about cold showers, I was young. And it was spoken about on an old sitcom called ‘Seinfeld.’ One of the characters, Kramer, liked to take cold showers, and one of hid friends suggested that cold showers were for psychopaths or psychotics…one of those. So, that’s what I’ve thought about it my whole life…until about a month ago. And since then, cold showers have changed my game in many ways.

There are many touted health benefits to cold water immersion. Tony Robbins has a Plunge Pool that is set at ~56°F that he jumps into every morning. He does not not have an internal discussion about it, because his brain would win every time. He doesn’t give himself the option, he simply does it because he decided to. That is discipline.

I know what you’re thinking, ‘why would anyone want to do that to themselves?’ Well, I’ll discuss several reasons why it’s awesome, as well as giving examples of ‘professionals’ and ‘celebrities’ that engage(d) in cold water immersion therapy (cold showers). 

There are several different methods employed that fall into this seemingly bizarre practice. One is complete immersion in cold water, instantaneously; this is how Tony Robbins does it in his pool. Charles Darwin (depression) and athletes like Lebron James and Kobe Bryant (health, muscle recovery) immerse themselves in large [tubs] of cold water, Henry David Thoreau (writer) jumped into an extremely cold lake to treat his depression, Australian model Miranda Kerr took cold showers because of the benefits to her skin and hair, famous actress Katharine Hepburn loved cold showers for health benefits and great skin, and of course….I have been doing it for several weeks now and I can’t even describe the changes that I….oh, yes I can…but first…the science. 

NYC-based dermatologist Whitney Bowe, MD, is an advocate for cold water immersion, though she does recommend tepid water (room temp) over frigid temps. “Hot water disrupts the skin’s natural oils, removing its natural ability to ward off dryness and irritants,” says Dr. Bowe. “Lukewarm water is much more gentle on the skin.” It can even help to tighten pores and reduce inflammation, including under-eye puffiness. If lukewarm water can do that, then what about COLD water (mid-winter Michigan well water)?  Cold shower therapy is recommended by many medical professionals to patients with depression and anxiety as a naturopathic approach to mood improvement. Research has shown that lowering the brain’s temperature with cold exposure has “neuroprotective and therapeutic effects,” activating the brain’s release of norepinephrine, the adrenal hormone that helps people with depression to feel more “up,” naturally. Pretty cool—and even if you don’t struggle with depression, the cold exposure can work as a great mood-lifter for winter blues, and can help with weight loss and hunger cravings. Also, Wim Hof (the Ice Man) has been talking about the positive effects of cold exposure therapy on the brain, aging, skin, and immunological effectiveness of the body. He says it is the answer to most of society’s mental and physical health issues. 

And now about my experience… 

It’s no secret to those who know me or who have read some of my other writings that I have suffered (and currently still occasionally suffer) from anxiety, major depression, and bouts of mania. I also have (more than one type/cause of) PTSD, and many areas of early onset osteoarthritis, surgical bone deformities and painful scarring, and I have chronic pain, asthma, ADHD, and sleep apnea. I began waking up early in the morning (4AM) at the beginning of this year to create more time for meditation, self-care, workouts, and school work while the family slept. I now wake up earlier than that because I read that Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson gets up at 4AM, so I get up at 0330-0345. This new wake-up time has done amazing things with my productivity and time-management. But it contributed to emotional strain, stress, and early afternoon fatigue. 

Well, I started taking cold showers about the first week of February of this year, after having watched Wim Hof on You Tube discuss the benefits. I researched his claims, and they were backed by a significant amount of research over decades…so I began. I started with the hot to cold method, slowly lowering the temperature throughout the shower until it was fairly cold for the last couple of minutes. This week, I went all in and ran a shower with straight from the frozen Michigan earth water. It was an experience, that’s for sure. But what has it done for me? Well, I can’t rule out the probability that the improvements are psychosomatic or correlated with other factors….but anecdotally I have noticed a dramatic increase in energy, motivation, mental clarity…decreased anxiety, depression, and mood swings…and much better sleep. I’ve also been having better and faster thoughts and ideas, and have really been able to begin multiple projects that I have been putting off. My dandruff has almost disappeared, I’m still dropping weight (I also workout and drink Shakeology everyday), and I consume less than half of the amount of caffeine (coffee) throughout the day than I did prior to this new habit. Hair, skin, and nails seems to be healthier, less allergic response to the animals in the house. Again, many factors to consider, but there has been a very dramatic shift in these areas. 

If you’re doubtful but curious, try it for yourself. Research it, here. Do it every day for a month, come back here, and comment your thoughts and experiences with it. 

Do you think this is something worth trying, given all of the reported positive health effects? Or would you rather stick to your hot showers?  

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Thanks for reading, 

Andrew

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