You know that feeling when we mistakenly step into a freezing cold shower?
“yowwwwwwwwwww!!!!” and we jump back in terror “Omg, that’s so coooolllllld!!!”
Well, here’s a little secret: we sauna enthusiasts seek out that feeling. We are like crack heads for that adrenaline rush. After experiencing this feeling over and over, we are able to unpack what is actually happening, in a weird, rational kind of way.
Conventional sequence from contact with cold water:
- Skin: “cold water, man! I’ll go tell the brain to get our muscles to react, fast!”
- Brain: “shit, the skin down there just told us that there’s fucking cold water hitting the body. Time for conditional response! sending an outpouring of stress hormones right now. Hey muscles: pull back now!”
- Muscles: “righty, oh. On it!”
We pull back. We breathe hard. We are freaked out, but we recover.
Experienced sequence from contact with cold water:
- Skin: “cold water, man! It’s just cold water, is this what we want?”
- Brain: “Yes, the skin down there just told us that there’s fucking cold water hitting the body. My conditional response has been rewired. This feels fucking awesome. No stress hormones needed right now. Hey muscles: you good?”
- Muscles: “Shit yea, this is awesome, bring it on.”
Gladwell, Yuval Noah Harari, (Sapiens), and behavioral psychologists everywhere remind us that basically 20,000 years of being chased by tigers have created conditional responses for survival. Our minds secrete norepinephrine and cortisol that flood the body during stress. This is hard wired into our system. Cold plunges, cold showers between sauna rounds, and the Wim Hof Method of deep breathing and cold water exposure unearths benefits of more energy, reduced stress levels, and an augmented immune response that swiftly deals with pathogens: rewiring the hard wiring.
With the authentic sauna experience, yes we enjoy ourselves like crazy. Yet in addition, thanks to the clean rinse after every sauna round, we fully heat up and fully cool down as part from the rubber band theory and we, over time, chip away at 20,000 years of conditional response to rewire our minds, and our bodies.
We can learn from a 6th grader about how completely cooling down between sauna rounds, with a cold plunge or cold shower, greatly enhances our sauna experience (as well as augmenting our conditioned caveman immune response).
It’s been said that with sauna, when we surrender, we win. As we build trust and confidence with heat AND cold, we are tapping into some serious shenanigans (note comment section below).
More simply put:
- “eeeww!!”: before we got used to sauna hot and cold water cold.
- “aaahh!!” : after we got used to sauna hot and cold water cold.
“Aaahh” is better than “eeeww”.