The first thing I've always done when I wake up in the morning is hop in a hot shower. I like to get the water to the perfect temperature between warm and piping hot so as to create a sort of steam room in my bathroom. This is how I've always loved to start my day. But I recently read an article about the benefits of a cold shower and decided to give it a try. I set out to take a cold shower every morning for one month.
Here's what I did:
The first morning I turned on the cold water, tested it with my hand, and nearly decided against the entire challenge. But I wanted to see if any of the benefits were true, so I eased into it. I took a regular hot shower then took 30 seconds to slowly decrease the water temperature from hot to cold. This helped my body adjust and was less of a shock to my system, but it was still cold. I took ten deep breaths and exhaled through the shock while sheets of ice rained down on my skin. Then I began the alternations, this time taking 30 seconds to increase the temperature back to hot. I did this three or four times and ended with cold water. I found that alternating between hot and cold helped my body adjust and by the final switch I actually preferred the refreshing cold water.
I spent some time researching the most common reasons people suggest cold showers and compiled a list below. After 30 days, I was able to weigh in on the seemingly too-good-to-be-true benefits of cold showers.
Cold showers can help boost your mood
I don't know if it was a placebo effect or the cold water, but I felt more cheery and ready to take on the day after my cold shower routine each morning. Mornings are hard for me in general, especially when I'm curled up in my warm bed with my blackout curtains disguising morning for night. Waking up became much easier with cold water splashing down on my face. According to an article by naturopathic doctor Peter Bongiorno in Psychology Today, "...because wet and cold causes our surface vessels to vasoconstrict (tighten up) making blood move from the surface of your body to the core...Not only does it conserve heat, it also reflexively bathes the brain and vital organs in fresh blood."
Cold water can naturally improve your complexion
This one I seemed to notice right away. Beginning my morning each day with a face scrub under cold water left my face smoother and clearer than ever. (Some people even go so far as to recommend ice treatments for acne!) When it comes to your complexion, the problem with hot showers is that the hot water opens up your pores leaving more opportunity for breakouts and blemishes to appear, whereas the cold water constricts your blood vessels which may help decrease redness and puffiness.
Same goes for improving your hair and skin
After a month of cold showers my skin was absolutely radiant and my hair felt more moisturized. The cold showers left my skin feeling less dry, while my hair felt all around healthier. Not only that, the harshness of hot showers strips your skin of the natural oils needed to nourish and protect it. According to an article from HelloFlo.com, "cold water closes the cuticles which results in shiny and healthy hair, as the conditioner is sealed in."
Cold water may decrease post-workout soreness
Submerging yourself in cold water can help to improve circulation and reduce inflammation because the cold temperature causes the blood vessels to constrict. According to Men's Fitness, "an ice bath will immediately reduce swelling while flushing lactic acid out of your body." The cold water helps to break down lactic acid which will help to decrease the level of soreness the days following a workout. I found it more natural to take a cold shower after a workout and I felt less stiff and sore post-workout.
Cold water is invigorating and an energizing start to the day
The mere act of taking a cold shower strengthens your emotional grit and resilience. Beginning each day with a cold shower not only helped me wake up, but also left me with an encouraging feeling of "I've got this!" that set the tone for my day. Rather than feeling sluggish and sleepy-eyed in the morning, I began to feel more awake and inspired, ready to take on any challenge.
Cold showers are becoming more popular and there are many points being added to the long list in support of them. Is it hard to get myself to turn the knob to cold? Yes. Is it unpleasant and less enjoyable than a hot shower? Yes, it's cold! For me though, if I can feel more awake and inspired to take on the day, that's all I need. It's the difficult things in life that build character. It's been one month and I'm never going back.
To quote Theodore Roosevelt, "Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well."