The backyard looked like a scene right out of a children’s fairytale. Snow lined branches against a winter-gray sky, cardinals and bluebirds darting to and from the feeder, gentle snow falling all around me, covering the land in a soft white blanket.
I stepped into my cold tub and took several deep breaths to center myself as I overcame the shock of being immersed in freezing water. Then I began a video message to explain how a cold-water plunging adventure three years ago has turned into a life-altering habit (I’ll link the message below).
After shooting the video about why I do this (a question I’m often asked by those who see my posts), I finished my dip and went inside to warm up. Later that afternoon, I thought about why I’ve continued with this practice to the point where I even purchased a cold tank for our yard, and I realized that it’s because it trains me to be comfortable with discomfort – a superpower I’ve grown to appreciate.
Joseph Campbell told Bill Moyers during their television special years ago that while most people say they long for more meaning in their lives, what he believed they really wanted was more aliveness. The water has given me that aliveness. When I first jumped into the ocean with friends in October of 2019, I not only felt exhilarated, I felt invincible. I drove home believing I could do anything. So, I went back again and again.
I certainly was after the feeling of aliveness Campbell spoke about at first, but over time it morphed into something more. Learning to take on uncomfortable situations intentionally gave me courage and energy. It inspired me to get in shape and try new things like wearing clothes I normally wouldn’t wear or accepting invitations I might usually turn down. It also gave me the inner strength to speak up on my own behalf, be straight with people rather than beat around the bush, make unpopular business decisions, or be there for loved ones who needed me without feeling so empathetically challenged.
Along with these benefits, there have been many others, too. Inflammation levels have been dramatically reduced in my body. Arthritis in my fingers doesn’t bother me anymore. My immune system is stronger and has served me well throughout the pandemic. I feel less anxious living in a challenging world and my sleep has improved. And I’m much more comfortable in cold weather which has made living with my husband (who is a furnace) easier. We no longer fight over the thermostat and we even save money on heat 😀.
Self-trust, courage, feeling more alive, improved physical health, and inner strength that will serve you well are just some of the benefits of making it a practice to intentionally take on things that make you feel uncomfortable. For me, it’s cold baths. For you, it may well be something else (please share, I’d love to know!).
If you’d like to see the message I recorded while in the tank, you can find it below.