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This is a question that most people probably never think about, because it's an every-day thing. But for many of us, such as myself, who grew up in more western cultures, with more modern conveniences, visiting places that don't have hot water can be quite an adjustment, perhaps even more difficult than learning to use a new type of toilet.

I know that not everyone handles cold showers the same. Some people dread them, others think nothing of them. How can I learn to be in the latter category?

What physiological, mental or physical techniques exist that make cold showers more enjoyable?

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I really like this question because I face this very problem at least once a year. It still takes about 3 days to get used to, but then, I really enjoy it. The main point from Aditya's answer I want to underline is "practice makes a man perfect!". –  Axel Jul 28 at 7:32
    
I faced the same problem when I start spending more time in Indonesia, water is cold and most apartments I rented before I bought a house had no water heater, till I discovered the tankless instant water heaters, I got one for less than a 100 USD and my life changed after that, I took it with me when I plan to stay for extended periods in a place. Two screws to hold it in place and plug it in and you will have the warm nice showers, it wont be convenient for short stays. It's too small the one I got and so light, little bigger than a tissue box. –  MeNoTalk Jul 28 at 21:43
    
Many good answers have been posted, and I agree with all of them. Just a small thing that I want to add based on self-experience: jumping around after getting contact with cold water helps me easier to adapt to the coldness, although I don't know why and whether it's acceptable for health or not. –  Andrew T. Jul 29 at 8:23
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@AndrewT.: Jumping around increases heart rate and blood flow. It's even better if you have a workout just before your cold shower. –  hippietrail Jul 30 at 3:52
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You can always get a simple water heating rod, if you're in India. It costs around $4-5 for a cheap one. To use it you can use a coat hanger and fix the clip on it. –  noob Jul 30 at 4:59

11 Answers 11

up vote 34 down vote accepted

While growing up I had to turn on the heater before taking a shower and sometimes when its getting late, you really don't have time to do that. Here's some advice which might help.

I'm going to go ahead and assume that any hot water source is unavailable and you are in a frame of mind where the water is too cold!!!

Step 1 - Making Peace with the Cold Water

Okay so you don't like cold water, the best way to make peace with it is to convince yourself that it's not too cold.

It's like entering a cold swimming pool, if you dip your feet in it for a while, it'll be easier for you to get in.

When you wake up in the morning, your body temperature feels lower because you haven't had breakfast yet, that's a good thing because it makes it easier to ease into the seemingly freakish cold water.

If you happen to have a shower, then turn the shower on and let it gradually touch your feet first, followed by your hands. Keep the water running and slowly ease in from the extremities of your body all the way to your face. You face is the part which you'll dread the most, so save it till the end after you feel like the body temperature going down.

If you happen to have a jug and a bucket of water, follow the swimming pool strategy. Fill in the bucket halfway and dip your feet and hands in it. Then slowly start pouring down the cold water on your hands and proceed.

One additional thing which might help is to have a towel on you. A towel which you could dip in the water and squeeze out/rub on your body will help.

Step 2 - Taking the Leap of Faith

You have to remember, practice makes a man perfect! Doing it the first time is much harder than doing it the Nth time.

After cooling down your body for a few minutes, hold your breath and step into the shower, as soon as you get into it, don't chicken out! The leap is the hardest, after it, it gets exponentially easier.

Same goes with a bucket of water and jug, when you're ready, repeatedly take a lot of water from the bucket and pour it over yourself. You start doing it, don't stop!

Water in which you were dipping your hands or feet it will actually be warmer and make it a bit easier, which is why I feel using a bucket and jug is easier with cold water.

Step 3 - Finish as soon as possible

Remember, once you get into it, there's no coming back, there's no point doing the whole procedure from scratch again. So, keep pouring that cold water over you, it gets much easier when you keep doing it. Pause for short breaks only when you need to use soap or shampoo.

Wash your body in little sections, torso at once, feet at once, hands at once etc. After you're done, get a fresh towel and hug yourself tight with it.


I've done the exact procedure I mentioned a several hundred times in my life quite comfortably, of course I like my hot water, but where there's a will, there's a way.

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"It's like entering a cold swimming pool, if you dip your feet in it for a while, it'll be easier for you to get in." Really? For me the only way to enter a cold swimming pool (or cold shower) is to plunge in. –  jpatokal Jul 28 at 1:30
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@jpatokal I presumed that one tried that already (frame of mind where the water is too cold!!!) and just can't seem to do it. I've had that issue several times and I felt that saying "Man up!" wasn't a solution to the problem. ;) –  Aditya Somani Jul 28 at 1:35
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Very nice answer. I would like to emphasize on step 3's keep pouring that cold water. The moment you stop pouring, your body will try to heat itself and it makes you feel colder than before... unless you're ready for it (for soap & shampoo). Also, wrap your body with towel quickly after finishing for the aforementioned reason, and try not to catch a cold! :) –  Andrew T. Jul 29 at 8:18
    
I think that starting with the hands then the feet might be better since the toes are less sensitive and can give you a false impression of how cold it actually is... giving you more of a shock than you might expect? –  Michael Lai Jul 30 at 23:47
    
@MichaelLai Probably, but I think this is more of a personal choice. Try out different methods and choose one. I personally prefer the feet first because it is easier to dip just the feet and also because of the whole gradual change instead of fluctuation. –  Aditya Somani Jul 31 at 0:51

A few years ago I made a conscious decision to start taking cold showers. I didn't go cold turkey: I would start with a normal shower, but not a steaming-hot shower. After I was done, I would tun on the cold water and stand under it for a few seconds.

After a few weeks, I was able to wash off the soap with the cold water. A few weeks after that, I was washing off the soap and shampoo with the cold water. From there, it was a small jump to taking a completely cold shower. Now I love it, I find the cold shower far more refreshing than a hot shower ever was.

I never intended for the cold showers to be enjoyable, but now I know that they most certainly are!

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Doesn't really tells us anything about technique though! The trick is to just accept it? –  Lodewijk Jul 28 at 11:15
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Pretty much. I'm trained as a foot soldier, so I am used to just shutting up and taking it! But really, for just a few seconds it's not so bad, and once you get used to that after a few weeks then you can start doing more and more in the cold water. –  dotancohen Jul 28 at 11:31
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@Lodewijk, if you read the answer again dotancohen uses a technique of slowly adapting to cold showers rather than a shocking all or nothing technique of jumping into a cold shower, they gradually ease into completely cold showers (like the practice mentioned in other answers) –  Malachi Jul 28 at 15:44
    
I'm curious why you "made the conscious decision to start taking cold showers." Was this just to be ready for what you might face in situations where it wasn't available or for some other reason? –  reirab Jul 28 at 21:02
    
@reirab: Probably a combination of reasons. I was researching rheumatism and noticed that cold showers are good for the back muscles, that was part of it. Luckily, just a few months after I started taking cold showers I had opportune to visit Tromso, Norway in winter to see the northern lights. The ability to withstand the cold was an asset, as my companion was suffering from the cold and he originates from a land where they see snow yearly (Belgium). –  dotancohen Jul 28 at 21:16

Since I arrived in Japan in April this year I have been taking a cold shower almost every day. At first I did it because I didn't know how to enable the hot water, now because I got used to it.

For me it is easier to do so after exercising (going for a run, weight based exercises like pushups/crunches), as the cold shower will feel like a reward.

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Flexing those worked out muscles in the shower also helps steel them against the cold water. –  hippietrail Jul 30 at 3:50

Here's something to inspire you. The video is a song from an old Hindi language Indian movie. The first few lines roughly translate to:

(Dad)
One should shower with cold water,
(Son)
One should sing, irrespective of whether one can.

(Dad)
Son, clap your hands
While I sing Qawali
Let me strike a chord
And turn on the shower
Hold this bucket
Make it look like a drum.

(Woman)
I am waiting with your tea
This is a home not a theater
Don't you wanna go to a movie?
Don't you wanna go outside?

(Son)
Mummy should also be called inside,
We should sing, irrespective of whether we can.

The song becomes irrelevant to this question after that line :).

I guess the point of the song is that singing loudly while entering the shower helps to mitigate the shock of first contact with cold water.

Also, for me, "faking shivering" before entering the cold shower somehow reduces the shiver when the cold water hits.

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+1 Hahaha! Thanks for reminding me of my childhood! :') Are you Indian? Also, I second the whole singing thing, it does help! :D –  Aditya Somani Jul 29 at 13:29
    
@AdityaSomani Yes :) –  Prometheus Jul 29 at 13:53
    
It's hard to imagine, but I think faking shivering does actually help (how much exactly it is hard to tell though)... –  Michael Lai Jul 29 at 22:55
    
For those who never heard the song before. Here's the youtube video for more info - youtube.com/watch?v=zFnEDjWuLlY –  noob Jul 30 at 4:56
    
wtf, how is watching that video going to inspire anyone.. i tried to google but no evidence that faking shivering can help. –  user13107 Jul 31 at 0:25

I'll go ahead and advise turning on the shower, spraying a small amount of water on your chest and then quickly entering the bathtub/shower area.

Explanation:

The shock from the small amount tells your brain that you've contacted cold water, but tells it not to worry because of the small amount. Then, when you quickly enter the shower, the brain already knows you're dealing with cold water, but until it realises that the stream is actually bigger and stronger, you've already touched a lot of cold water with your body and got used to it.

The trick is that the water isn't actually cold, it's just a perception (and the discomfort is actually produced by the brain to protect you from quickly losing your body temperature by entering cold water). The "colder" the water/bigger the risk of losing body temperature, the stronger the discomfort gets. I'm regularly taking cold showers and after showering with cold water dozens of times, you can casually enter a cold shower and not even feel a tingle.

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This is the technique I use when I have had to deal with the hot water supply being cut off (for whatever reason). My basis for this is that you need to deal with the more sensitive areas of your body first and then the rest will be easier.

  1. Start by allowing only a very small water flow, so that the rest of your body is not in contact with the cold water.
  2. Allow the water to come in contact with the hand first so you get an idea of exactly how cold the water is, then apply some of the water onto your upper arms.
  3. Once you are comfortable (enough), then allow your head/hair to come into contact with the water (if you are washing your hair). This is not going to be pleasant, since the hair will retain the water and keep your head feeling cold.
  4. Increase the flow of water and splash some of it onto the body. This will be the most unpleasant part as the surface area exposed to the cold water increases dramatically.
  5. This is where you have to just go for it or back out, because it is pretty much the point of no return. Assuming that you have followed all the steps so far, the shock to your body will be the least it can be.
  6. Do what you need to do to get clean and then get out and get yourself warm.

It has worked out well for me in the past, and I would be interested to see what other people think of this particular technique.

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I've spent many years with scouts bathing in cold rivers, and it never gets pleasant.

I don't think this will ever change, mostly because we western people got used to bathe in huge amount of water wasting it, while you don't need much water to clean yourself.

My method was to enter the cold water for a second, then apply soap to the wet skin and rub, then jump in and try to remove all the soap.

You don't have to make the cold water pleasant, you have to rethink your way of using water.

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I guess that's individual. For me, cold shower is the pleasant way to bath, even in winter, it makes me feel fresh and alive. Practice makes perfect. –  Luka Ramishvili Jul 29 at 5:32

What I find works best is a imitations the watering the chest method and getting to love cold water method.

  1. Deal with the Shock

    • Water your feet and water your chest
    • Turn the cold shower slowly on so its like rain initially
  2. Put a major limb in IE arm or leg and get used to the water

  3. hold your breath, man up and take the plunge.

Good luck!

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Do some sport or exercises before going under the cold water :) push-ups, stationary jumps, abs ... your body will get warmer, and you will be able to bear this pouring icy water a lot more easily :D

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Personally, I'm a big believer in the Mammalian Diving Reflex.Whenever I have to swim in a cold pool or use a cold shower, I have to get my FACE in the water first, then the coldness is barely noticable.

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First, starting to take a cold shower from toe to the head, by doing this you will takes half the simulation bring by the cold water, then test if the water is still cold, if cold, brings up the temperature a little bit, until your body feels comfortable, then, finish the wash in less then 5 minutes only, so you could barely forget the shower and create less fear when washing with cold water in no time.

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