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Momentum, and the Value of Cold Showers

After going back and forth with it for some time, I recently got back into taking cold showers in the morning. On one hand, they’re unpleasant. On the other, they have a variety of health benefits, both physical and mental. But perhaps no benefit of cold showers I find bigger than that of momentum.

The idea of momentum is described well in William McRaven’s book Make Your Bed. It’s one of those books that I haven’t read but I know so much about that I might as well have read it. The example McRaven uses here, of course, is making your bed — making the bed is a very simple task which opens up the day on a “winning streak”, making you more motivated to take on the other parts of the day. This is the principle of momentum — if you start small and snowball your way through the day, you’ll be a lot more productive than you would be otherwise.

Cold showers are perhaps a slightly more intense variant of McRaven’s idea. It takes a lot more effort to sit in a cold shower than it does to make a bed. Because of this I think I would recommend starting with his strategy, but I also believe that cold showers essentially emulate the “end game” of this idea. It’s a painful (albeit not extremely so) task that has the potential of great benefits for you. Take that analogy and apply it elsewhere: getting exercise, studying for a test, applying for jobs. But a cold shower is the most fundamental building block to it. 

That’s why I think cold showers are great for momentum on “pain and gain” tasks, tasks where the momentum of making your bed may not be enough. I find going straight from a cold shower to exercise much easier than stumbling out of bed, putting the sheets on, and going right into pushups. But, cold showers or no, I still think the idea of building momentum to start the day is something everyone should think about.

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