Cold Shower Challenge: conclusions

It works. Try it.


I took on the 30-day Cold Shower Challenge a few months ago. I haven’t written about it until now but I did complete the challenge, and in fact I’ve kept taking cold showers ever since.

I don’t want to mince my words, so I’ll start with the main conclusion.

Would I recommend cold shower therapy to other people?

Absolutely. I think it is 100% worth trying for a month. There are a lot of people who will vouch for it. All that needs to be said is “try it and see”. There’s not much point in me trying to convince people it’s worthwhile, since the anecdotal evidence speaks for itself. It can’t possibly be a bad thing to try.

How effective is it?

My first 30 days of cold showers amounted to the most productive 30-day period in my life. It was amazing. I was motivated and decisive. I took on problems without overthinking. However, my profound new level of productivity did decline as the novelty of the feeling of cold showers started to wear off after a few weeks.

In the end, I kept going because I concluded that taking cold showers is better than not taking cold showers. Cold showers won’t solve all your motivation/discipline problems, but if I had to put an arbitrary number on it, I’d say that it helps me by 20% or maybe more. Combining this with other things, like daily habits and meditation is what pays off for me, as the benefits stack up noticeably.

How does it “work”?

It’s somewhat pointless to theorize about the multiple benefits of cold showers. To summarize the main benefit, I’d put it this way:

If procrastination is about a feeling of discomfort in not wanting to do something that you think you should do, then cold showers help you become more aware of that feeling of discomfort and lowers the “activation energy” required for you to say “okay fine I’ll just do it” in response.

How does it feel?

The first week of cold showers was a bit tough. I definitely wondered whether it would ever get easier. My answer is that it does, not only mentally but perhaps also physically. I think that the sensation of pain in response to cold decreases after a few weeks. Sometimes, taking cold showers has its distinctly enjoyable sensations now.

Practical advice: preventing itchiness and increasing immersion

For the first week or so, I was itchy all over due to taking cold showers. Not everyone reacts this way, and apparently it’s due to soap not being fully cleared off your pores or something. Anyhow, this was my solution:

  • Take some days where you shower without soap. Washing your hair with shampoo is fine.
  • Incorporate the “Scottish shower”. Start with a cold shower with soap or body wash. Once you’re done, rinse with hot water. 30 seconds is enough, although I can admit to taking much longer on occasion. End with a cold shower where your body feels cold again.

I have confirmed that rinsing with hot water directly prevents the itching, since 30 seconds of rinsing is enough, and intense scrubbing in cold water using shower gloves improved things but still left some itch.

The Scottish shower thing might seem a bit like cheating, but it really isn’t. It doesn’t take away from the fact that you have to immerse yourself in a cold shower, and it doesn’t take away the fresh feeling you get from ending with a cold shower. I also think it’s a great way to ease into the sensation of cold water. When you first start taking cold showers, the cold water is met with panic and the desire to scream. A week in, you’re still screaming but kind of okay with it, but it’s still quite difficult to just submit to the cold water without dancing around or anything. Warming up with hot water first prepares you well. My back is the most sensitive to the cold, but switching the stream from hot to cold triggers an enjoyable sensation without the panic, even when it starts freezing.

Basically, it’s so much easier to reach a calm state of full submission by finishing with a Scottish shower than it is to do it right at the start.