I’ve been on a cold exposure journey for several months now and wanted to share a recent “aha” moment. (If you’re new to cold exposure or have no clue what I’m talking about, check this out.)
At the top of the year, I was all in with the cold showers and doing it everyday. Then life got in the way and I just sort of let it go. And whenever I contemplated starting again, I became overwhelmed with the idea of having to acclimate to the cold all over again. (You should know that I REALLY dislike the cold. Up until recently, I didn’t even turn on the AC in the summer. I like it hot hot. So the idea of a cold shower is NOT something I'm naturally drawn to. But the health benefits are so numerous, I couldn’t justify not putting it in my tool box.)
When I first began my journey, as soon as I turned on the cold water my whole body would constrict, bracing for what would be a really uncomfortable sensation.
I was preparing my body to experience pain.
So I decided to take a slightly different approach this time. Instead of diving back in head first, I gave myself permission to go slow and be gentle.
Interestingly, as soon as I decided to soften my approach, I got a little nudge…an invitation to see if I could let myself enjoy the cold.
An invitation to turn something painful into pleasure.
I pushed back at first. How is it possible that someone who detests being cold is going to get to the point of enjoying a cold shower?
But…this voice was so sweet. And exerted no pressure. Just an invitation that I could simply accept if I was so moved.
The first thing I did was get rid of the cold shower playlist I put together. In the early days, it helped to hype me up, distracting me from the sting of the chill. But I figured if the goal was to bring in pleasure, I surely wouldn’t need a distraction from that.
Then today it finally happened.
Sure, yes, I began to enjoy the cold but something perhaps even more incredible happened.
Ok, let me circle back to how I alchemized the cold. I just titrated the amount of cold water so that every (tiny) turn of the dial on the shower knob was barely perceptible.
And this allowed my body to better acclimate to the cold because I didn’t push with a big extreme temperature jump. I respected my body’s boundaries, and as a result she relaxed, let go of the constriction and stopped bracing. This allowed my whole body to open up to the possibility of pleasure.
Ok now back to what really wowed me.
Something told me to turn my dial even more today… to the coldest setting. I was terrified. I didn't want to give up all the progress I’d made. I was scared that if the shower got any colder I wouldn't be able to handle it and I would run fast in the opposite direction and abandon all the hard work I put in.
I took a deep breath, said a little prayer, and turned the shower dial all the way to the right letting the coldest water rain down on me.
And you know what?
The coldest setting on the dial was just about a centimeter from where I was already. All this time, I was sitting right next to victory and didn't know it. Funny thing is I barely registered a difference in temperature.
Makes you think how many times we’re tempted to quit something because we think the finish line is too far away. When in fact it may be just around the corner.