It’s slowly starting to get cold in Europe. You stare outside the window and see the big shining ball of sun but when you step outside and take the first breath your brain shrinks into a small little raisin for a second.
Or if you are from the Nordic countries you simply just walk out and go for a swim in a lake barely above 0 degrees. And that’s what you should do. Often we wrap ourselves in warm clothes and make sure that not a single little blow of cold air touches our well protected skin. I am not saying you should walk around in shorts all the time when it’s freezing cold outside. I am saying expose yourself to cold temperature for a short period of time.
Cold showers are not a myth
I do not know if you remember this, but when I was a kid, I used to see adverts on the TV for a drink coled Actimel. Actimel is a probiotic drink which promises that if you drink one of their sugar loaded little drinks every morning, your immune system will be equivalent Superman’s.
Did I believe it? Of course. I was about 9 years old. I wanted to fight every disease and virus off like Superman.
What did they offer as an alternative to drinking Actimel every morning? Yes, COLD SHOWERS! Thinking back, this is such a great marketing strategy. It’s like offering you a bar of chocolate and saying this will cure your anxiety. As the human being is naturally always seeking the more comfortable option, I am guessing Actimel is still positioned as an alternative to cold showers in many people’s minds.
The easiest way to expose yourself to cold is a cold shower. Assuming all of you have running water at home. Why should you go through one of the most uncomfortable feelings there is? Let us tell you why.
#1: You take control of your emotions
Disclaimer: This is very hard to scientifically prove.
When you get comfortable getting uncomfortbable, your ability to do things that you usually don’t do will increase. Getting out of a cold shower, relesease an immense sense of satisfaction that you have accomplished something. It also gives you a sense that you are invincible, at least for a a little bit. The point is that your heart rate speeds up, you are super alert, and you have to push yourself to stay under that cold stream of evil.
This persistence that you develop when you condition yourself to stay under the cold shower, every morning, translates into every other area of your life too. Ask yourself this: Have you ever felt good, empowered, strong or invincible from doing something easy?
Most of us don’t much to get out of our routine every day. We repeat the 90 % of the same thoughts than the day before and do probably 90 % of the same things as yesterday.
However, a cold shower is something you NEVER really get used to. I have never looked forward to getting under the cold shower. It’s doing something hard everyday that makes doing the hard things easier. That’s when people start saying this guy just has higher drive, determination, energy.
#2: You feel happier
The effects of cold showers on your body is that it releases endorphins and serotonin. The same hormones released when you smoke a cigarette or eat good food.
#3: You get a stronger immune system
You can fight your cold with ‘cold’. Exposure to cold increases the amount of immune cells in your body. The ‘natural killer’ cells that are fighting off different diseases in your body are the ones that increase.
#4: You recover faster
Your muscles will thank you too. You have probably heard of ice baths? Athletes expose their muscles to extreme cold for recovery.
Exposing your muscles to the cold, alleviates inflammation and reduces muscle fatigue so that you can get right back to the gym.
#5: Your lymphatic system benefits
Your lymphatic system removes toxins form your tissues and organs. Lymph fluid is a fluid that is flowing through your body that removes these unwanted substances. When you take a cold shower your lymphatic system is activated. Your blood vessels contract and start pumping whereby the lymph fluid is moving toxins from your tissues and organs.
#6: Your brown fat is activated
Also known as brown adipose tissue, brown fat is responsible for bone health and bone density. This tissue causes our body to burn extra calories to keep warm. Your body actually activates a kind of survival mechanism. In this world we now do not need this response to keep us warm usually but we can use it to hack ourselves and burn some extra calories by stimulating the brown fat through cold exposure.
The Wim Hof method is also promising brown fat activation among many other things. He lives a few minutes cycle away from me on a houseboat in Amsterdam and is known as the ‘Ice Man’. If you want to take cold exposure to a new level, he is your guy. Especially if you want to do splits in the arctic with almost no clothes on.
#7: You may live longer
The most exciting benefit of a nice cold shower is your increased lifespan as a result. Multiple studies on animals have shown that exposing them to colder temperatures have increased their lifespans significantly.
The act of ‘Hormesis’ is putting small amounts of stress on the body that actually makes the body stronger. You do this when you work out and you tear apart small muscles fibres that will make them grow stronger. A cold shower has the same effect. It is ‘good stress’ for the body that makes it stronger.