Guest blogger Peter McFadyen shows us how to embrace the cold – literally – and how this helps him to make the most of his day.
A few years ago I started training for my first technical climb – basically involving crampons, ice axes and lots and lots of ice and snow. In the leadup I was looking around for ways to increase my exposure to the cold. Now I must begin this by saying that I enjoy the cold and am always fairly comfortable with being cold, but I wanted to do all that I could to give myself the best chance of success.
As we were approaching winter I saw a way that I could combine a few aspects of my self development and help myself prepare for my climb at the same time.
I am fortunate to live on the coast and I both live and work very close to the ocean. When I was building my toolkit to help change my moods at will I came across the ultimate may to improve my mood. Most day’s when I take a lunchbreak I jump into my car and head down to the beach to swim. This provides a lot of benefits to me, it gives me time away from my desk, activity in the middle of the day, allows me to spend time in nature, I frequently get to see whales, dolphins and sea eagles, my body gets to absorb some vitamin D and it gives me “two mornings” in my day so my energy and productivity stay high throughout the day. It does mean that I start my day a little earlier and finish a little later but I find that a small price to pay for the benefits I receive.
I have also been working for some time on being comfortable with being uncomfortable. I am a lover of the books of Pema Chodron and especially two of her books “When things fall apart” and “The places that scare you: a guide to Fearlessness in difficult times.” These are two of my go-to reads for departure lounges and lazy afternoons in the hammock, or as a refresher when I start to take life too seriously. In her writing Pema addresses the Buddhist concept of being comfortable with being uncomfortable as a way of attaining enlightenment. While I’m still a very long way from enlightenment, I have found that being comfortable with discomfort makes me much less demanding, much less precious, much more open to the opportunities that life presents and it enables me to have an enjoyable time and find humour in most situations. Most importantly it allows me to be grateful in a wide variety of situations and this greatly improves my ability to make the most of every day.
In my daily swims I combine these two concepts and I will swim in any weather, rain hail or shine. In now adding my desire to grow comfortable in the cold I swam every day during winter.
I do live in a fairly temperate part of the planet but there were many single digit days that saw me wading into the water despite the cutting wind or the cold drizzle. I would then body surf or float, depending on the swell and the tide, for as long as I could feel my toes or until my legs began to tighten up with the cold. I’d then dry off, jump back into my car and head back to work, refreshed and happy that I had taken the time to do this small thing for myself, my health and my mental balance and toughness.
Now years down the track I have become a devotee of finishing my morning shower with a 30 to 90 second burst of cold water. There are apparently many health benefits to this and if you google it you will see that it is touted to improve immunity, ease stress and relieve depression. I also find that it eases joint pain, increases my alertness and keeps me warm for many hours after my shower. I was tested on a recent trip to visit some friends out at Black Mountain, near Armidale in New South Wales and at an elevation of 1400m. It was the middle of winter and I had my first fail, being unable to last more than about 10 seconds under the shower – I literally couldn’t breathe! In recent weeks though I had the opportunity to again test myself when visiting another colder destination in the same State, Dorrigo and managed the full 30 seconds – a wonderful feeling indeed on a cold morning.
Why do it? Apart from the pain relief and the health benefits it allows me to start each day with a small challenge, a sense of achievement and a sense of wellbeing.
It shows that I can do what I want to do and am prepared to take the time and put in the effort to care for myself. While it isn’t a big thing I find that starting the day like this, then throwing in a morning dance, a good intention and knowing that I have the opportunity of a lunchtime swim truly puts me in the mood to make the most of every day.
Is there something small you could do early in the day to set yourself up? Is there a hidden pocket of nature near you to spend some time in? What opportunity do you have to make the most of today?
“Let your life be your message” Mahatma Gandhi