All of my monthly challenges to date have dealt directly with improving my mental and physical health. This isn’t entirely intentional, but given the priority I put on improving my long-term well-being, it doesn’t come as a surprise. As an added bonus, America’s health status is less than great, so I think it’s safe to assume these challenges will remain topical (feel free to berate me if I’m wrong).
June’s challenge is no different but is by far the most difficult undertaking this year. After reading the accounts of numerous people who have taken on this particular challenge, I’m going to need some extra motivation to pursue this thing head on. Two ways I’m fond of finding this encouragement internally is actually by directing myself externally toward my favorite story tellers: science and highly successful people.
Science, just like political opinions, can at times do more harm than good to our mental health because universal agreement can be hard to come by. This leaves the final “answer” with as many holes as Swiss cheese, which must be filled by our personal experiences and predetermined opinions. However, I’d rather have Swiss cheese than no cheese at all.
Fortunately for us, this month’s challenge is backed by a good deal of science (to be further explored in future posts) with little to no contradiction between studies. And as you and I join the group of practitioners, we might influence more studies to be conducted! We can literally shape the priorities of science!...
Ok, not really, but that would be pretty cool.
Getting back to the Swiss cheese analogy. For the most part, our limited experiences really don’t have enough ingredients to fill all these holes, so reading up on the experiences of others is crucial. And I don’t know of a better source to gain influence from than people who are all-around, highly successful and have incorporated this challenge into their daily routines. What we see as crazy, they see as just another Tuesday.
I’m analogy happy today, so here comes another one.
Remember, science lays the foundation, builds the walls, and puts the roof over our heads, and personal experience puts in the windows. If yours or someone else’s experience is fallible, letting in a noticeable draft during the winter months, then you don’t have to knock the entire house down and start over. You just need better windows. Through a bit of research and talking things over with your neighbor, you’ll find exactly what you’re looking for without missing a beat.
Once you have the complete package, you’ll be ready to kick things into high gear. Your adrenaline will be pumping, your motivation will be unmatched, and the next 30 days will be a cakewalk (or at least a bit easier than going in blind). And as I have said before, if at the end of those 30 days you don’t see any benefit to continuing your challenge, let it go and start a new one!
Alright, Paul! Enough already. What’s the challenge?
Ok, you’re right, you’re right. Your patience has been admirable and I thank you for waiting. Without further ado, this month’s challenge is (drum roll please)…
No, not the kind of cold shower where it’s 100 degrees outside, you just ran a marathon, and your body would melt a block of ice in two seconds. I’m talking about the kind of cold shower where you roll out of bed, disoriented from a crazy dream, head straight for the bathroom, and hop on in.
Just writing about it makes me cringe a little bit.
The welcoming, warm massage the shower greets me with each morning is one of my favorite parts of the day, but it also does nothing for me. Unless dry skin, a wretched scalp, staying sleepy, and wasting my time (I take way too long of showers) is considered “something,” then I really need to make a change to this routine.
Now, I’ve done the cold shower routine a few different times in my life. My first experience came the week following a playful day in the sand (at the age of 19) in Naples, Florida. To put it simply, I spent four hours under a cloudless sky with not enough sunscreen. These cold showers were an oh so welcomed part of my day, so it wasn’t exactly challenging, but a good introduction.
The next experience came about a year and a half later in the Dominican Republic. While volunteering with an organization called Outreach360, we were well accommodated, except for the lack of hot water. Volunteers were instructed to take "navy showers", and this time around, the cold water was quite a shock. Some volunteers actually continued the practice once they got back home, but I was certainly not one of them.
Finally, my longest stint without a hot water shower was the five to six months I was living in Cameroon. My first two months were spent taking bucket baths and the rest of my time there was spent under a normal shower head (which was not normal for most volunteers) with no temperature control. There were a few times here and there where the water was really cold, and produced some noticeable hyperventilation, but given the hot weather and my tendency to take my showers in the afternoon, most of my experiences were quite comfortable.
Given all of these experiences, I will not be coddling myself by using half hot, half cold water to ease my way into things. I’m going to get after it from day one. 100% cold or bust!
The only decision I’ll be making is whether to turn the shower on before getting in or to simply stand under the once friendly shower head and, like jumping in a cold pool, turn the knob and let the cold rain down. I plan on going with the latter, so I don’t psych myself out before ever getting under the water.
This Wednesday will mark day one, which is a momentous day for more reasons than this challenge, but I’ll save that explanation for another time. As always, I challenge you to join me on this crazy journey, so we can share our experiences and encourage each other to keep pushing forward. I can’t wait to tell you how things go this week, which will probably consist of stories of screams, loss of breath, and hopefully, more productive days.