Waking up is like stopping a moving train going full speed. It just doesn’t happen for a VERY long time. I honestly used to be a champ at getting up without snoozing the alarm. As soon as my alarm went off I would quickly snap out of bed regardless of how much sleep I got. Well, needless to say, those days are LONG gone. Waking up nowadays has become extremely difficult, even more so when I’m getting up to go to a job that I’m not super passionate about.
After snoozing my alarm 4 or 5 times, I roll out of bed and slowly throw on sweatpants and a hoodie. I then somber my way to the kitchen to quickly make breakfast before I shower and make my way to the office. Nearly 2 hours after waking up, when I’ve finally made it to the office, I feel like the day hasn’t even started yet. Aside from the essentials- eating, showering and getting dressed- I’ve really accomplished nothing productive.
This was how most of my mornings went, that is, when I woke up with enough time to eat breakfast. Oftentimes I found myself waking up so late that I had no time to make breakfast, and barely enough to shower.
I knew something needed to change, and that change came in the form of two extremely motivating speeches.
Change the World by Making Your Bed — Admiral William McRaven
Admiral McRaven helped me to understand the power of doing one small task, early in the day to prepare to conquer larger, more difficult tasks later in the day. While making your bed isn’t hard, it’s a choice that many don’t choose to follow. It’s a small, easy thing that I was able to consciously add to my morning routine to start my day off right and prepare me for a successful day.
TEDx Talk — Cold Shower Therapy — Joel Runyon
This TEDx talk spoke about the power of doing hard things early in the day to prepare for the rest of the day. Everyone can agree that cold showers suck. Especially in the morning. But by consciously making the decision to tackle this 5-minute challenge, I’m callusing my mind early in the day and preparing for many larger challenges later in the day.
Actually doing these things- making my bed and taking a cold shower- is not complicated in the slightest. Everyone knows how to make their bed and also, I hope, how to take a shower. But with that said, these tasks are by no means easy. Waking up without snoozing is hard enough. Top it off with making my bed and a freezing cold shower and my mornings have become a pretty sizable challenge.
But, this is the way that I have come to like my mornings. I’ve never considered myself a super smart guy. Yet I seem to excel in most things that I do. From high school athletics to graduating summa cum laude from Penn State to my current career, I continue to do pretty well. And I attribute this success to my ability to focus on the small, seemingly insignificant things. Not to my intelligence. And to that point, I also focus on doing things that others aren’t willing to do to get ahead.
Most people consider the act of making their bed extremely insignificant. I know this because up until a couple of years ago, I was part of this exact train of thought. I would wake up, roll out of bed and get ready for my day. I even considered it more efficient to not waste the time making my bed-something I concluded did nothing to actually move the needle forward. Or so I thought.
When I gave making my bed a week-long trial run, I noticed some serious changes. While it never took me more than a few minutes to get my bed looking great, I felt like I was achieving something substantial. I felt uber accomplished to have completed even the smallest task so early in the morning. From there, I was hooked. Not only was it awesome to do in the mornings, but I noticed my sleeping habits were better at night. It was an amazing feeling to crawl into a pristinely made bed after a long day’s work.
Then, once I heard about cold shower therapy, I assumed similar results would ensue. I decided to give it a trial run, and BOY was it an experience. Obviously taking a freezing cold shower in the morning is no fun at all. But those 5 minutes are a small price to pay compared to the way it has me feeling for the rest of the day.
Every day that I took a cold shower in the morning (and at night) I felt nearly invincible. When I got to work in the AM, I felt like I had already accomplished so much. I also felt much more equipped to handle anything that could happen throughout the day. Any problems paled in comparison to the freezing cold water I faced earlier.
These cold showers also completely shifted my mentality. I knew for a fact that not many people were taking cold showers. I mean, how many people are crazy enough to take a freezing cold shower when hot water feels AMAZING. So it was extremely motivating to know that I was willing to do what others weren’t willing to do to better their morning routine, and life.
Aside from the significant mental shifts I’ve experienced, cold showers have some very real, proven benefits to the body:
- Improves circulation: The cold water encourages blood to surround the organs to keep them at the proper temperatures. This improves circulation outside of the shower as well.
- Reduces Stress: Regularly taking cold showers puts a small amount of stress on the nervous system and promotes hardening. This means that over time the nervous system will get used to handling more and more stress.
- Increased level of alertness: The cold wakes you up and also forces you to take deeper breaths. This leads to increased CO2 consumption and a higher level of alertness.
- Elevates mood
- Strengthens the immune system: Taking a cold shower increases the number of white blood cells, which helps to fight illness and diseases.
- Moisturizes skin and hair: Hot water tends to dry out your skin and hair but cold has the opposite effect. Cold water helps to tighten cuticles and pores which can make hair appear shinier, stronger and healthier.
- Reduces muscle soreness and swelling: You don’t have to be an elite athlete to take advantage of this one. Everyone has seen an ice bath before but many of the same benefits can be achieved with a cold shower.
All in all, cold showers have allowed me to realize that I don’t have to like the difficult things in life that will eventually make me successful. I don’t have to like reading every day. I don’t have to like working out or putting in extra hours. I don’t have to like meditating. And I certainly don’t have to like freezing cold showers. But that’s where the power exists. When I do the things I don’t like, no matter how seemingly insignificant, I’m slowly conditioning myself to be able to better handle adversity. I’m slowly preparing myself for the really big challenge that’s bound to come my way. And as crazy as it sounds, I think that because of freezing cold showers, I’m going to be ready for it. I guess only time will tell.
Originally published at thextraordinaryblog.wordpress.com on January 11, 2019.