If there’s an easy way to do something, I’ll take it. I might even spend more time looking for an easy way then it would take to do it the hard way. Just so I can save time, in the future.
I’m also an experimentalist. I’ll try just about anything if it seems reasonable and offers and interesting payoff. Oh, and did I mention procrastination? Yeah. I’m all about that.
What do you get when you lump all three of those in together with something called Cold Water Therapy? A suddenly effective person, it turns out.
What is Cold Water Therapy?
The idea is simple: take a five minute ice-cold shower every morning for 30 days. That’s it. Easy, right? Crazy? Maybe.
What could you possibly expect to get out of torturing yourself for five minutes every morning? Part of the answer depends on what you bring to the table – what you expect to get out of it. But to some degree it doesn’t matter what you expect, you’re going to benefit no matter what you think, if you get all the way through the 30 days.
It was Dec 10, 2013 about 4:30 pm when I decided to try CWT. My normally temperate part of the country was experiencing an arctic blast that brought sustained temperatures lower than they’d been in decades. It was cold, and I hate being cold.
I grew up in the desert of southern Arizona, just a little north of the Mexican border. I love the heat. Plus, I have a thyroid problem, so I naturally run a little cold. I’m the woman who always keeps a sweater handy, even in August.
So I did not respond well to that small voice inside me that piped up and said, “We’re doing that!” when I stumbled across the CWT page.
All the usual questions, some of them quite good, came forward: Why would you do that? What could you gain? What’s the point?
All good questions. And I didn’t have much of an answer either. But I was facing some important personal challenges at the time. Even more, I had big plans for the New Year. All the studying and preparing I had done for the last few years was finally going to pay off.
I was finally going to put my dreams into action – and that is a scary thing to do. Big changes bring a lot of fear with them. Uncertainty, self-doubt and a comfortable starting point can be enough to keep anyone from going after what they really want.
So I decided to take the challenge. I did it because it’s easy, free and personal. When you decide to do it, it’s just you and that water, nothing between you. No one to see you or stop you or cheer you when you make it. No one to chide you if you don’t.
You could lie about it, and say you did it, but you’ll know that you didn’t. And when you’ve done it for all thirty days, you’ll know that you did.
The first day stepping into the shower wasn’t that bad, I didn’t really know what I was in for, so I had nothing to fear. I turned up the heat in my bathroom, put on some music to a timer, turned the water all the way to the right and stepped in.
It was like needles piercing my skin. I yowled with shock and intense pain – something I had not expected. I couldn’t breathe. I ended up backing up and spending much of the time with water only touching my lower legs and arms. I tried to focus on the music, knowing that when it ended, I would be free to exit. It was the longest five minutes of my life.
When the timer was finally done, I slammed the faucet off and immediately felt relief as the heat flooded over me. I was elated. I felt strong and powerful. I had conquered the first challenge. My skin was bright red from the cold and I whooped and yelled that I’d done it before running quickly back to my warm bed to stop my shivering.
This was by far the hardest of all 30 days. I knew what I was in for and I didn’t want to do it. The pain was intense, the morning was 28 degrees and the heater hadn’t fully warmed up yet. I procrastinated. I searched for appropriate songs, I found myself wandering around the house for no apparent reason. I was everywhere except where I was supposed to be – in the shower. It took me 30 minutes to take a five minute shower.
Finally, I just focused down on the moment, told myself I would survive, choose a couple of songs, set the timer and took the plunge. It wasn’t any easier than the first day, but I did try to get and keep more of my body under the water.
When it was finally over, I again rushed to the warm bed and shivered until the feeling came back into my hands and feet. Again, the feeling of triumph, the rush of success was overwhelming. I had made it past Day Two.
It’s not uncommon for me to start a new project or new endeavor with a lot of enthusiasm and then run down after a couple of weeks. Knowing this about myself, I was prepared for what I have come to think of as The Bog. The Bog is what happens when you’ve passed the initial excitement and are into the nitty gritty grind of hard work, with a lot more to go at the end.
I didn’t know when it would hit, but I knew it would come and told myself – in advance – when it came, I would recognize it for what it is and just keep doing it, no matter what I said to myself. I “inoculated” my mind with the response I desired at the present moment and would not be subjected to the momentary weakness of “Future Self” which would undermine my plan.
You see, Future Me wants to be comfortable. She’s tired, she’s got a big back log of work that Past Me keeps procrastinating on and big plans of her own for *her* Future Me, which is somewhat different than my Future Self, though they share some of the same qualities, values and traits.
How to Out Smart Your “Future Self” And Get Things Done
When you can instruct your Direct Future Self to behave in the way you desire, you begin to bring your Self into Alignment. You begin to establish your Integrity and make your Self more solid, more effective and more Real. All that is required is that you correctly anticipate the reaction Direct Future Self will have when s/he faces the challenge or work you require to progress your plan – whatever work you want to get done.
Then you imprint the command that you desire to be executed. For instance, if you want to get up at 5 am, you anticipate how Direct Future Self will feel and react at 5 am when the alarm goes off. What will Direct Future Self think? What excuses will s/he find most appealing?
You can list the few that come immediatley to your mind, because you’re very close to being the same person and when you imagine yourself there your thoughts will be very close, but not quite the same. Perhaps you might think, “It doesn’t matter if I’m tired, or it’s cold, I’d rather stay in bed, when the alarm clock rings, I will immediately become wide awake, energetic and jump out of bed with enthusiasm.”
Or you might say, “The next time I interact with that person, I will be cool and unresponsive. I know what they say, whatever they say does not describe me at all for we are on such different planes of exisitence we cannot see each other’s realities. They live in a different world”
It might take some practice, some repetition, for the effect to be felt. Hold tight to the process and do it daily – for at least a few weeks – after all there are many years of negative programming to overcome. Keep a log of the days that you make your practice of empathizing with your Direct Future Self and the successes that your achieve.
Ignore the failures and log only your positive interactions: the time you are successful with Medium Chill, the morning that getting out of bed is *just a little bit* easier than it used to be. Mark an X for each day there is at least one success and see how much more frequent they become.
Getting Out of The Bog
With this project, I hit the bog at just about three weeks time. I was bored and I was really over cold showers. I’d already done it for so many days, what was I really trying to prove any way?
I didn’t count the actual days though many people benefit from that. Instead, I simply told myself I’d have to take a cold shower every day until January 11, 2014. On those days when I really didn’t want to get into yet another cold shower, I looked myself in the eye in my mirror and simply asked, “Is it January 11 yet?” the answer, of course, was “no,” then the reply was, “Then you’ve got to get in the shower. There’s no choice about it. Just do it.”
And I did.
I walked out of that bathroom a new person. Knowing that I faced down the demons of my own mind simply by anticipating them and directing myself to ignore them and take the action I desired. I chose to be uncomfortable, and I succeeded.
Change is uncomfortable. Growth is uncomfortable. Many people chose not to, most people would rather be comfortable at any given moment. But if you don’t grow, you wither. And it’s up to you to take care of your Direct Future Self.
Test your amazing ability to control you Direct Future Self by making her/him a five minute cold shower every morning for at least 30 days. You’ll find, if you make the commitment and do as I’ve instructed with compassion and integrity your Direct Future Self will obey your commands and your life, your Self will grow in the direction that you determine.
You’re the only person who can decide whether or not spending five minutes freezing your tail off will be worthwhile to you. You’re the only person who can finally decide to make changes, no matter how uncomfortable. But if you do decide to take on the challenge, I invite you to give me you impressions below.