It’s 7.03am and I’m in my pyjamas. But 20 minutes ago, I was in my swimming costume, getting ready to plunge into a very cold swimming pool – 9 degrees celsius.
Cold swimming is something I do to remind me who I am, to remind myself that I can do hard things.
It all started back in 2018 when I discovered the work of a man called Wim Hof. I started practicing his breathing technique and taking cold showers. That was the first time I’d ever done anything that made me pay attention to my body with anything other than judgement and disdain.
I started to notice things – how different the deep breaths felt on mornings when I was well rested versus mornings after poor sleep or mornings with a hangover. I noticed how my thoughts sounded and how much more my mind complained when my body was struggling, and I noticed massive fluctuations in my mood that accompanied these physical and mental changes.
Back then, I recorded two podcast episodes about it.
Here they are in case you’d like to listen.
**As this episode was published 5 years ago, the content I mention is no longer live.
This morning, after sitting down to write this post, I listened to each of these episodes and thought, “Gosh! I was already holding all the pieces of the puzzle back in 2018. How did I lose my way in the years that followed?”
The answer to how I both collected the pieces and then lost touch with them is the same – my habits.
In my experience, our habits either lead us to “wake up” or settle us into a type of inertia that disconnects us from ourselves and our own resourcefulness.
In that state of inertia, joy is far away, but when we start doing things to wake ourselves up, connect us with ourselves and make it possible for us to connect with other people in ways that spark something wonderful, joy moves closer.
It seems weird to link these things to cold water swimming, but here are some of the things this habit has taught me over the years:
I only spent about 30 seconds in the water this morning (as it’s the first time I’ve been in since we shock treated the pool with large amounts of chlorine) but when I got out, I felt alive, awake and connected to the part of myself that feels strong, capable and vibrant.
Being in the water was difficult. It felt brutal and harsh and my whole body was screaming at first, but the elation I found on the other side of that experience blasted away the inertia of the morning, and the repeated practice of getting into the water each morning will help me blast away the inertia I have allowed to settle into my life since 2020 and the Covid lock down.
Habit shifts can be so subtle that we don’t see the effect they have on us until we’ve moved far away from where we wanted to be. But then, with a little conscious thought, we can choose habits that will move us back to where we’d like to be.
Learning to find peace in cold water never fails to wake me up, blast away inertia and put me in a state where joy feels easy (at least once I get out of the water!)