“It takes 21 days to make a habit” is one of the most common phrases we hear. But how long does it take to make a new mindset?
In the first 21 seconds of my first ever intentional cold shower, I had formulated just that – a new mindset. Why did I do it? Why did I force my already cranky-self into a freezing tundra of water? I wasn’t sure at the time, I continued to ask myself “why,” along with some other good questions. Most I had answers to, except one. Here’s how it went:
Question #1: “Why am I doing this? (Have I lost my mind?!)” — Because it will make me better.
Question #2: “How will it make me better? (I am screaming like a little schoolgirl!)” — Because it will teach me discipline.
Question #3: “How will it teach discipline? (I am so uncomfortable!)” — Because by enduring this discomfort on-purpose, I am in control. I have self-discipline.
Question #4: “Why does having self-discipline matter? (I’m freezing!)” — Because if I can’t discipline my self to endure a few minutes of physical, non-harmful discomfort, how can I endure the progressive, life-improving discomfort that I may need to endure to achieve my full potential? How can I resist laziness, fear of failure, and taking the “easy road if I can’t even resist a little cold water?”
Then, the last question I asked myself: “How long can I keep this up?” and “Can I do this again and again?” I didn’t know the answer to that one…
But, I am happy to report, for 21 days I have been taking the. coldest. showers. possible. If the shower knob can go colder, I’ll give it a slight touch that direction. Not a drop of warm water has touched this body for twenty. one. days.
I’ll admit, the first couple of cold showers brought a certain meditative component that I didn’t anticipate. It felt that to remain under the freezing cold water, I had to “harness my inner Chi,” even though I have no idea what that really means, and don’t prescribe to any philosophy of the sort. But, much like we do on a treadmill: rather than stopping at .98 miles or 2.95 miles, we push through to the full mile-marker, don’t we? And when we do, we earn confidence from running a full 1.0 mile, or a complete 3.0 miles, not always because we believe that the extra distance will change our physical stature; but because we find an extreme self-gratification in successfully enduring hardship simply for the sake of mastering our weakness and desire to take the “easy road.” We master our self desire on a treadmill, and I was doing it in the shower.
Back to the “21 Day Habit” fallacy and the question I asked myself… After crossing the 21 day mark, is it a habit now? And the answer is, I really don’t know. I have yet to decide if this habit is worth keeping. And, the truth is, at some point this body is going to need a deep clean with some steaming hot water.
I do know this, however, that during these 21 days:
1. It is often the hardest part of my day (everything else seems so easy after).
2. I always crave a hot steamy shower and I still have to dominate my self-desire for comfort every single day.
3. I feel more in control of my life and I am slowly learning the habit of putting my laziness to death. Along with fear of failure, anxiety of possible discomfort, and taking the “easy road.” These qualities are dying in me every morning and night in that little tiled shower.
Since I started the cold showers 21 days ago I have practiced a higher level of self-discipline in other areas of my life. Such as: meticulously sticking to my exercise plan, eating very healthy and resisting sweets & treats, limiting my caffeine intake (which was far too high), making my bed in the morning, reading diligently each day, improving my posture and eye contact with others, stretching regularly, and in many other ways. The list goes on.
I guess you could say that this cold water is seeping into other cracks of my life. I guess you could say I’ve formed a habit in 21 days. A habit of elevating. A habit of self-discipline. A habit of controlling my human desire for having everything the easy and comfortable way. A habit of killing off “Lazy Chris.”
A habit of freezing cold showers…
I know. That’s half the fun.
- I am not a doctor. For more on cold water showers, cold water therapy, etc. do some reading on your own. Look for “Cyrogenic Therapy” and “Health Benefits of Cold Water Therapy.”
- Cold water therapy is not something I made up. Athletes use ice baths for muscle rehabilitation. Health Spas use water and temperature extremes for skin and muscle advantages. And most importantly, it is rumored that Bruce Willis dunks his head in a bucket of ice water every morning (how else do you think he keeps that great skin?).
- Also, I did not conjure up the idea of putting oneself through extreme discomfort to achieve self-disciple, either. The practice is thousands of years old and is used in various ways: from radical Catholic monks punishing themselves physically for sinning (self-flagellation), to Kevin Garnett snapping a rubber-band around his wrist every time he missed a free throw…
- At this time, I do not recommend ANY other self-discipline inducing practices besides cold showers. There are many ways to achieve self-discipline. The key is to find a safe and ethical method for yourself.