science of us

End Your Shower With a Second Shower

Photo: SuperStock/Getty Images

My friend Logan Sachon has been talking for years about how great it is to end her daily shower with a blast of cold water. Last year I took her advice, and it was powerful and joyful, but it also took courage every time, and eventually I stopped doing it.

This Atlantic piece on the twisted history of the modern indoor shower inspired me to ask Sachon about her own cold-showering origin story.

Logan, what exactly is your cold-shower routine?
Whenever I take a shower, I do a cold rinse at the end — I turn the cold all the way on, then the hot all the way off, and I stand under the shower with my face getting wet and let my whole front get wet, then I lift up each arm and get my underarms wet, and then I turn around and get my neck and back wet, and then I put my head under until my hair is all wet, and this takes like … a very small amount of time. Fifteen seconds? I went through a period of counting and the goal was 30 seconds, but I didn’t enjoy that, so now I just ensure that the cold water has gotten on each part of my body. During the cold rinse I am always yowling or breathing heavily or saying God damn or laughing, it changes and it’s involuntary, it just comes out, and it’s so funny.

I call it a cold rinse, which sounds nicer to me than cold shower, which even typing out now makes me recoil.

How did you find out about this method?
My brother has taken cold showers for years and has recommended them for mood and health, and in high school our German teacher used to recommend them to avoid sickness. But I don’t like physical pain, and so I was never attracted by these recommendations. And then a year ago at work I was overcome with this overwhelming feeling of depression. Like, I’ve been depressed before, but this was like, the bottom of a hole. And I decided to see what had to say (it’s the best website on the internet in my opinion, even though the answer to everything there seems to be, “drink apple cider vinegar.” I wouldn’t be surprised if the whole site was just guerilla marketing for apple cider vinegar. But somehow reading people’s comments about how they cured their MRSA with apple cider vinegar is soothing to me).

Anyway, so I looked up depression cures, and while they did recommend apple cider vinegar, there was also a contingent of people recommending cold showers. And some of the comments were so compelling that just the hope of doing this thing got me through the rest of the day. As soon as I got home I took a cold shower and it worked! I felt so much better. I mean I felt awful while it was happening, but then so much better after. And so I kept doing it every time I took a shower. And then I don’t know, it got to be winter, my house was cold, I stopped, and then earlier this year I was feeling down again, and I remembered it, and it worked again. So I’ve been doing it this time for several months.

What do you get out of it emotionally/physically?
It feels like it resets something, or restarts something. It’s like a jump-start for your body. I’ve always been a shower person — my mom has always been a proponent of using them to change your mood — and so I’ve always done that, taken one when I get home or when I’ve had a bad day. And adding the cold rinse to it just supercharges that. It feels so good to do this small hard thing and then feel very good after. And again, I do a very poor version of it. If you read the comments on Earth Clinic, most of the people are like, “Oh yes, you can only take a freezing-cold shower, and you can’t ever use any hot water, and you have to stay in the stream for hours, etc.” I don’t do that. I just do my little method, and it feels good and works for me.

Who else does it these days?
My boyfriend does it, too — he goes way longer than I do, he says it’s just 30 seconds, but if that’s 30 seconds, I must be doing like a millisecond. It’s fun to hear him yowling at the cold, and it’s fun to yowl at the cold yourself! In the gym I try to be quiet, but every now and then a “hoo!” comes out. It’s very refreshing. We love to talk about the cold rinse. If one of us is in a bad mood, we’ll suggest, “Why don’t you have a nice cold rinse?” and then it always makes you laugh, because it’s so unpleasant, but also very pleasant. And then you’re giddy afterward. Sometimes we sing a little song: “the hardest thing in the world is a cold rinse.”

Does it remind you of anything?
Exercise. It’s like a concentrated and quicker version of what happens emotionally after exercising. Exercise and then a cold rinse is like, double the fun.

How many people have you converted?
Basically no one except my boyfriend. I talk about it a lot and my friends are like, “Intriguing, I’ll literally never do that.” And then my brother is like, “Logan I’ve been doing cold showers since before you even heard of it,” and I’m like, oh yeah that’s true.

End Your Shower With a Second Shower