How to take a cold shower - a guide for complete beginners
Updated: Jun 29
If you have difficulties with cold showers, but still want to find a way to deal with them. This is your guide. It starts from nothing and builds up to a 2 minute cold shower. If you love cold showers already, great! You can find more cold challenges here.
In case of a specific cold related disease (raynoud, cold urticaria) or when in doubt about a medical condition, check with your doctor first. Also while cold showers are good to improve your health, skip them when you are feeling sick.
Some words of reassurance
I have met so many people that hated the cold. They would be the one person that is always cold. Possibly even wearing jackets in summer and just generally being uncomfortable in the cold. The thought of consciously choosing to go into cold discomfort was a horror to them. I have met so many people that still took that step and were very grateful for making it. I have seen enormous improvements in how people can deal with the cold, both physically and mentally. People turning from cold haters to cold lovers and gaining many benefits on the way. I have seen this happen in the most unlikely cases. For some it went really fast (an hour), others it took more time, so if you identify with any of this, just trust that it can change and try it out:)
Get a sheet of paper and get ready to write.
- Find your why: Before you start, make clear for yourself why you are doing this. This will make it easier to motivate yourself. There are many good reasons to choose from. For example overcoming a fear, the many health benefits, learning to get used to the cold, training your mind, curiosity, finding a great way to wake up, etc. Whatever your reason is, find one that works for you and write it down.
- Create time to do this: Decide for yourself on a moment during the day that you can explore the cold. It is easiest to have the same moment every day, then you don’t have to think about when to do it, which makes it easier to do it. The moment can be any moment during the day. Preferably linked to an activity that you do daily, rather than a time. For example after waking up or before breakfast/lunch/dinner or when you come home from work. You can do the cold challenge before or after your normal (warm) shower, or just do it as a separate exercise. Decide on a good time and write it down.
- Set your intention: Decide for yourself the rules and stick to it. A recommendation is to do this 5 times a week for at least a month. Write the rules of your challenge down and also create a planner with boxes that you can tick of when you have done the exercise.
Tips for going in the cold:
Find the right balance between comfort and challenge
1. Be nice to yourself
2. Challenge yourself
1. Be nice to yourself (but show up every day)
The biggest challenge in the beginning might not be the cold water itself, but the process of getting yourself in the cold. Therefore, the main goal in the beginning is to create a habit of exploring the cold. You don’t have to do anything crazy yet, but you should show up every time. If you start with 10 minutes cold shower, you will probably not stick to the program, so the trick in the beginning is to find the easiest possible way to interact with the cold. There are multiple ways to make a cold shower easy:
Shower only a little bit cold (lukewarm)
Shower for a short time
Shower only some of your body parts
The question you can ask yourself is: What is the minimum that you can do? If you will not come out of bed, if you have to take a full cold shower, then make it easier for yourself. Find a smaller goal, like just showering your feet. Or your feet and your hands. Or if you really don’t feel motivated, start even smaller. Maybe just your left small toe. It doesn’t matter if your goals in the beginning are ridiculously small as long as they are realistic. It is better to do something small, than not to show up.
2. Challenge yourself: Go every time a little into the uncomfortable
Once you have found the minimum you can do, you can start challenging yourself more. For example: If you are comfortable with showering your hands and feet, can you also shower your lower legs and underarms? Once that is okay to do, what else can you add? Keep on adding till you can have your entire body under the shower.
How much you challenge yourself can be different every day. Maybe one day, you can easily shower in the cold and the next day just showing up is an enormous challenge. Don’t make the challenges impossible (if you have enormous resistance towards it, make the challenge easier), but do challenge yourself every day.
3. Enjoy: Find ways to relax in the cold water
Once you have found a way to get yourself in the cold water, the next step is to find a way to relax into it and enjoy it. Here are some tips that can help (but feel free to find your own ways):
- Just observe: Observe whatever comes up with curiosity. I like to see cold exposure as a journey into a new land, with all kind of new sights. Explore these physical and mental sensations with curiosity. You might feel physical sensation that are new: tingling; pain; warmth or cold; a special kind of numbness or a feeling of freshness and energy. You might also come across all kind of mental sensations: fear, annoyance, doubts, all kind of ways of procrastinating, inner strength, pure joy. Just become aware of whatever comes up and enjoy it as a new discovery.
- Breathe to relax: The cold water gives tension and this makes it a great teacher to relax. There are many ways of relaxing in the water. Using the breath is a very powerful and simple way. Once you go into the cold, keep on breathing and slow down your breathing. Focus on the breath. Calm deep breaths. You can imagine that you are taking deep sighs of relief and with every exhale you let go of whatever you don’t need.
- Gasping for air: Sometimes the cold can take away your breath and make you gasp for air. This is completely fine. If it happens, just let it happen and then slowly take control over your breathing, you can start with longer exhales. Once you have control over your breathing, you can slow your breathing down.
- Having fun: Don’t take the whole process to serious, just have fun with your shower. You can make sounds, sing, dance, whatever helps you to not freeze.
Add weekly challenges
Once you are able to take a full cold shower (this can take a day or multiple weeks), you can give yourself weekly challenges. Write the challenge down on your sheet of paper, create boxes you can tick of and enjoy:)
First week: 20 seconds cold shower
Second week: 30 seconds cold shower
Third week: 45 seconds cold shower
Fourth week: 1 minute cold shower
Feel free to adept the times to your level. Built this up till you can enjoy a 2 minute cold
shower. Enjoy and let me know how it went (successes and failures). This will help me to improve it more.
If you like more cold challenges, you can read this post or join one of my workshops.