I have found cold showers to be a helpful component in my trauma healing journey, and I believe there is research to support this finding.
Early on, when I started taking cold showers, I’d find myself crying afterwards, and stretching to release trauma-induced tension from parts of my body that I was suddenly aware of and able to let go of.
It’s almost a year since I first started doing them, and doing them in Canada is no small feat. I confess I don’t turn it to the coldest, but not-completely-cold Canadian showers are much colder than the coldest California ones, from firsthand experience. I still find the experience refreshing and grounding, helping me connect more deeply to my body.
It also helps me deliberately introduce discomfort in my life, which I personally associate with personal growth. “If I can take this coldass shower, what other difficult thing now seems a lot easier to do today?”
Wim Hoff is the foremost proponent of cold showers, and promises a range of physical and emotional health benefits for people who regularly practice his breathing exercises and cold exposure such as ice baths and cold showers. I recommend you check out some of his articles and videos on the topic, and download his app, which has a bunch of tools you can trial and helpful educational information.
The instructions below are a synthesis of his main points, and the way in which I apply them in my own routine:
- Take your usual hot shower. You can start practicing taking nice deep breaths in and out. Slowly, so you don’t hyperventilate, but also without pausing between the in and out breaths,your goal is to oxygenate your blood.
- Step out of the flow of the water and turn the water down to cold.
- Start by just inserting your arms in the cold water for a few seconds. This already can feel like a shock.
- Repeat the same with just inserting your legs into the water. Inserting your limbs starts to acclimate your body to the cold so when the rest of you dives in, it’s not as much of a shock.
- Prepare yourself mentally for the discomfort that you’re about to experience. Don’t shy away from it, rather, prepare yourself emotionally for it.
- Take a deep breath in and hold it as you step into the cold water. There can be a tendency to try to start gasping for air. This is a reflexive response, but try to control your breathing and slow it down as much as possible. Slowly exhale your breath, then try to slow the inhale as much as you can.
- After a few seconds, you might find that the gasping response slows down and you get just a bit more acclimated.
- Stay in for even a short period of time, you can start with jsut 15 seconds for an entire week, then build up to 30 second the second week, 45 second the third week, and one month in you can be taking a 60 second cold shower.
- Congrats! You’ve embraced discomfort and you get to feel supremely refreshed and empowered as you step out and take on the day (or night).