Friday, January 1, 2016

Year of Stoic Living, Week 1: Cold Showers

Wow. Just, wow. I didn't think you guys would go down this route for the first week. But cold showers won, so...

Really? I have to freeze my ass off? For what?

Yes, but it isn't as bad as you think it is.

First, let's start with some non-Stoic reasons to take a cold shower.

  • It's good for the blood. Taking a cold shower makes your blood run towards your organs to warm them up. Heat it up and your blood goes to your skin to keep your innards cool.
  • It can make you happier. A quick cold shower releases a chemical in your brain that helps battle depression.
  • According to some, it'll help you lose weight. The cold increases metabolism, which works those calories right off. You know, if you're into that sort of thing.

There are other reasons, but what does this mean for the Stoic? Why should taking a cold shower be considered a philosophical practice?

For starters, cold showers aren't know for being fun. I've taken a few myself just for the experience of it and still find myself gasping like a ninny, thinking that maybe, somehow, I'll be better about it. But, no, just as bad as before.

Which makes it great for confronting discomfort in a safe way. After all, there are good odds that a cold shower isn't going to kill you. Sure, maybe if you have a heart problem, the jolt could be too much. But for most of us, all it's going to be is a jolt. It doesn't hurt. It just sucks.

For a Stoic, this is ideal. Few things in your life is going to suck as much as a cold shower. Your day to day is not likely to be so disastrous and terrible that the cold shower is actually the best part of your day. Boss is getting on your case? Traffic is terrible? Well, at least they're not ice cold water running down your back.

Learning to deal with discomfort in this controlled way trains you to do better when other discomforts come along without warning. And it doesn't take much to train this skill, either.

How to Take A Cold Shower

There are few ways you can take a cold shower.

  • Just blast the ice and jump in. This is how I do it as taking a hot shower first lessens my chances of turning it to cold. It'll be the quickest shower you'll ever take, though. Get wet, get soapy, get rinsed. Out in a few minutes.
  • Do what the Art of Manliness calls the “James Bond shower”: Start hot to get wet and soapy, then turn it ice cold to rinse off. Supposedly, this is better for getting cleaned, as the hot water opens the pores to clean out the dirt and the ice water closes them up tight to keep dirt out.
  • Turn the cold water on to the point where it's annoying enough. This is good for your first time and how I used to do it. Start off like you'd take a shower normally, then get it so the cold is just a little colder than you'd like it.
How often should you do this? The Art of Manliness suggests taking a cold shower at least once a day. Personally, I think this is a bit much, but for this week, try to take one once a day if at all possible, barring anything that might prevent this (currently, our shower is being rebuilt, so to be honest, I'll have to start later this week). Afterwards, do it at least once a month.

Oh, One More Thing

You're starting a journal. No, you can't wiggle your way out of this.

I've avoided this one for a long time, too. But one of the best ways to keep habits we want is to monitor what we're doing and one of the best ways to do that is journal about what we're doing.

It doesn't have to be major. It could be at the end of the week, every other day, whatever. It's could be a paragraph or a full-fledged thesis. Whatever it takes for you monitor yourself and get your own feedback on how you're doing.

Anything Else?

Yeah, one more thing. I want to try to do a Google Hangout once a week, but I can't promise a certain date or anything like that. Retail makes that hard. But this is meant to be a group project, something we all have a say in, so I'd like it if we got together when we can and talk about how we're doing and where we want to go.

Next Week

Negative Visualization. It's good to practice the basics.

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