I am a strong believer in the power of mind. Strong mind as important as a strong healthy body. It is what makes elite the elite, either in sport, business or life in general. Below I share a simple technique that will improve your mental toughness, will make you healthier and will boost you with energy.
Few facts about your body
- Your body is tuned to optimally operate within 20–21°C (68–71°F)
- 125,000 km (77,671 mi) of blood vessels running through your body.
It’s enough to go around the world 3 times! Just think about that for a sec.
- There are two types of fat in your body: White fat and Brown fat.
Brown fat is keeping your body warm by utilizing glucose and fat. Newborn babies don’t shiver as they have a lot of brown fat to keep them warm. People who live in colder climates have more brown fat than those that are not. By exposing to cold, overweight people lose weight by fueling brown fat with the white one.
When you take ice bath/cold shower
Your body closes blood flow to less important parts of itself to remain in homeostasis by keeping the core temperature above 35°C (95°F). Blood rushes from the skin and muscles into the organs to keep the body temperature within healthy range. The more cold your body gets, the more blood vessels in my arms and legs contract, ensuring that the heart, liver, kidneys get enough blood to continue working. This is why you may feel burning or tingling sensations in your toes and fingers. By taking a cold shower or ice bath you essentially train your blood vessels to open and close, just like training your muscles.
Known health benefits from exposing your body to cold
- Improves blood circulation
- Activates brown fat
- Trains you heart and cardiovascular system
- Improves immune system by increasing the amount of leukocytes, which helps fighting against viruses, parasites, bacteria and foreign substances
- Clears your skin and making it soft
- Charges you with energy. Adrenaline and dopamine levels rise instantly, giving you the “energy boost”
- Improves your mood
Besides the health benefits outlined above, there are additional benefits I personally found for myself:
- It’s a good mental training
- Raises self-confidence and gives a sense of accomplishment. A mini-win over the mind
- Speeds up muscle recovery and relieves soreness for people who keep an active lifestyle
- Helps to clear the mind and fight negative thoughts. It also slows the mind down in a way, so you get a sense of stillness and connection between mind and body
3-step Body Tempering Procedure
It’s not all just about getting cold
There are two parts of the exercise: breathing and cold. The breathing part is not intended to relax you. It is there to enable you to control your mind and body.
It’s not all just about getting cold
Ice bath, or a cold shower is only the tool that allows you to train your mind. Think of it as a mental gym. Just as if I would go to the gym to train my body, I dive into the ice to train my mind.
Step 1. Take contrast showers
A contrast shower is simple. You just alternate between hot and cold water. The hot water opens your blood vessels and increases blood circulation, and the cold water contracts your blood vessels and decreases blood flow. While on the beginning you won’t be able to stay long under the cold water, with time you will get more used to it and will even start to like it. When you open the cold water, naturally you will start breathing fast. The trick here is to calm your breath by breathing in deeply and exhaling slowly. Control your breathing. Week by week slowly increase the time under the cold shower, and remember the main thing — breathe slowly and deeply. With time the ratio between hot:cold will decrease and you will be able to stay under the cold shower much longer and it won’t shock you as much as it did in the beginning. Practice it in the morning or first part of the day.
Step 2. Take ONLY cold showers
Now that you’ve been playing with contrast showers for a while, cold water doesn’t feel as cold and you significantly increased the time you spend in the blue zone. It’s time to level up. In the morning, right after you woke up, jump into the cold shower right away. Remember: the trick here is to calm your breath — breathe slowly and deeply. Begin from 60–90 seconds, then step out of the shower and dry your body with a towel as fast as you can. Day by day slowly increase the time under the cold water.
Step 3. Superman level
Fill your tub with cold water. Add the ice. Don’t think, just jump in! The more you think, the less likely you will do it. When you’re in, focus on your breath. As I already mentioned before, deep breathing is the key. If your breathing is fast and shallow, you will start panicking and your reflexes will take over, forcing you out of the ice water. Breathe slowly and deeply, watch your breath. The second you noticed your mind began wondering, come back to your breathing. Don’t sit in the ice for too long. I would say a minute would be a good start, and then slowly progress.
Your breathing is the link between the physical, material world and spiritual — non-tangible world.
Few useful tips
- Don’t think about taking a cold shower. Don’t think how cold and uncomfortable it will get. Don’t let your mind talk you out of it.
- Focus only on stepping into the shower. Period. Just step in, the rest will follow.
- When in cold, focus on what follows. Think of how good the warm water will feel afterwards and how good you will feel about yourself.
- Remember, the cold shower won’t last forever, but the mental strength will.
“It’s all Good Mental Training”
Once you have formed the habit of taking cold showers daily, don’t let it vanish. To see the benefits outlined above, you have to stay consistent. There will be times when you travel, catch a cold or simply don’t have access to a shower, and that’s fine. It gives you the opportunity to try something new. If its a winter time, go out and jump into the snow — scare your neighbors. Maybe there is a lake or pond nearby that you can dunk in. Gyms, community centers all over us. Don’t look for excuses, because you will find them. Instead, search for the opportunities and stay creative.
Ever since I started the cold exposure habit, it’s been more than three years. There wasn’t a single day that I missed a cold shower or an ice bath. When people hear that I dive into the ice, they usually say: “it’s just not so cold for you anymore…” or “you’re from Ukraine, so you’re used to it”. It is no more than an excuse that people find for themselves to not do it. It brings up the smile on my face each time I hear them. I took a cold shower over a 1,000 times and let me tell you, there wasn’t a single time that I felt like taking it. Every time I left my warm bed and came up to the shower, my mind would give me a million legitimate reasons why I shouldn’t do it. Thousand times I forced myself to open the cold water. Thousand times I won the internal battle between ME and MY MIND. Thousand times I stepped out of the shower as a winner. Thousand times I trained my mental muscle and strengthen it.
Cold showers are still as cold for me as they were when I just started. However my mind is much stronger now, and your will get too. The ability to control the mind doesn’t stop in the tub of ice, it impacts all areas of your life. You will finally put the reins on the crazy “monkey mind” of yours and slow it down. You will be able to step back and take control over the impulsive behaviors, you weren’t even aware of before. It will teach you to do the right things when you don’t want to, when you being lazy or tired. It will train you to push through discomfort and pain. It will open up a whole new, previously unreachable world.