How to Take a Cold Shower... aka The "Pain Drain" Technique

Why would you want to take one in the first place?


  • You'll lose weight. Cold showers activate your fat burning to keep you warm. 
  • You'll start feeling happier. Some studies suggest taking a cold shower help battle depression. I'm not sure how this works, but the studies seem to show it does.
  • You'll have better blood circulation, and thus healthier blood. 

So you know it's good for you. If you need more convincing, check out this article, this one, and this one

Now that you're convinced, how do you do it?

Photo "Buddha" courtesy of Afghan Lens.

Photo "Buddha" courtesy of Afghan Lens.

Part of what keeps us from taking a cold shower is the fear. We fear the sensation and imagine it as pain.

But what's important is not that you take a cold shower a few times this week. What's important is that you take a cold shower regularly for the next year or so. With that in mind, how do you turn it into a habit?

I'm going to give you the fool proof method.

The "Pain Drain" Method

The goal here is to step out of the shower with the water colder than when you stepped in. The Pain Drain method helps you reprogram your mind by changing what you find painful or pleasurable. 

First off, let the shower warm up. Step in like normal, but this time, start tricking your mind a little bit. 

Feel the warm water hit your body. Imagine how painful it is. Think of the burning on your skin. All the negative effects of taking a hot shower. How weak it makes you feel. How uncomfortable it is. Recognize how painful. Convince yourself that you hate it.

What we're doing here is associating all these negative thoughts and feelings to the hot water. 

Then allow yourself some rest from all the pain.

Turn the water a little bit colder. Feel the cool water and let yourself breathe a sigh of relief. Relax and feel how refreshing the colder water is. Fall in love with that feeling. Imagine how much your body appreciates it. Turn the water a little bit colder. Recognize how much you LOVE taking a cold shower, and keep going colder if you can.

No need to push yourself, but just enjoy the game of giving your body the refreshing cold water it craves.

After you're done, recognize how amazing your body feels for having just taken a cold shower. Pay attention to the refreshing feeling you have. Take a minute or two to do a full body check in and experience the wonderful feelings your body is going through after that colder shower.

Tomorrow, it can be a bit colder. After a few weeks of this, you should be so in love with taking a cold shower that you want to challenge yourself and jump in to a fully cold shower. Keep practicing attaching pleasure to the cold shower and pain to anything warm. 

What you're doing here is attaching pain toward a sensation you don't want and pleasure to something you want to do more. This changes what the brain imagines about an experience (taking a cold shower).

We're motivated by this pain and pleasure dynamic. We move towards pleasurable things and away from pain. Escaping pain drives us more than running towards pleasure. That's why it's helpful to start with a little warm water and to imagine how painful that is for you. By doing that, you're creating a negative experience that you want to move away from.

We'll call it the "Pain Drain" trick.

Stepping it up

After you develop the habit of going cold slowly, step it up a notch.

Give yourself a few weeks. A good way to tell you're ready is when you're excited about the cold water and you start avoiding the hot.

Step it up by turning the water all the way cold and then jumping in without being able to think. Allow your feet to get wet first. You'll need to keep tricking yourself that you love it. Think of all the reasons you're grateful for the cold shower.

While your feet are getting wet, move to your legs, and then try to jump straight to your face. This will be a bit of a jump and might shock you. Be ready for it.

After shocking your face, get yourself wet all over. Let yourself get a little used to the cold.

Then turn around and let it hit the top of your back. This will be another bit of a shock. As you get used to it, you'll start to love it.

When I do this, I get all the shock out of the way and make sure I've experienced the cold. Then I turn off the water to put on soap, then turn it on again to rinse off. This makes it a little less intense. It allows you to get used to the water a bit while making sure you're getting all the benefits.

By the way, this is probably the best way to get all the benefits. You'll be shocked into waking up, your body will rush various chemicals throughout, and you'll step out feeling invigorated and refreshed.

How else can I use "Pain Drain" trick?

Think about diet plans or exercising.

The running from pain and towards pleasure is why we fail at taking on a diet or following an exercise plan. We think of the diet as a painful experience, and want to escape it. We think of exercise as painful, especially when we create wild, intense routines out of nowhere.  

Pay attention to how healthier people view different types of food. Or exercise. Ask them what they think about pizza. About the food that nourishes them. How do they view the food? How do they feel about missing exercise for a day?

I'm betting they created associations for things they like (nourishing food and exercise) and things they want to move away from.

Using the Pain Drain technique gives you the same power in your own life. It allows you to re-program what motivates you. 

Start by practicing this with taking cold showers, which is already part of your daily routine (taking showers). Then you can try the technique with other things, like eating better food or going to sleep earlier. Soon enough, you'll be living life better than you imagined.


If you found the Pain Drain technique helpful, be sure to share the article with someone you care about.

If you're having any trouble with it, let me know in the comments!