"Thermogenesis" is the word you use to convince yourself shivering is fine. Just fine... / by Will Ringland

It’s been over a year now since I embarked on my own Moral Perfection project akin to Ben Franklin’s and I’ve set into a routine. On one hand, tis is good in that habits are built on routine and setting good routines to build the good habits we desire means a slow, resolute progress to your goal.

It is the essence of Resolution.

Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.

But if we do not challenge ourselves, we can stagnate. In 563 days Resolution was been the weekly focus for 6 weeks. That’s 42 days (Ha!) where my daily goal was to be more resolute in my decisions - do what you resolve.

For most of those days, I’ve been focusing on Life, Work, and The Side Hustle (link BR) by outlining a small set of tasks for these categories to complete each day. Here’s a verson that appeared on my whiteboard at work:

"Eating the Frog" is doing the thing you've been stalling on first and is effective for me.

"Eating the Frog" is doing the thing you've been stalling on first and is effective for me.

The discipline necessary to do the things I list is [usually] rote. I have the task list > I complete the task list. It has been the primary success criterium for Resolution this last year.

So… what is next? If that is now habit, how do I challenge my resolve in a useful way? Like, can I add a thing or a challenge that extends a personal goal as well as test my own resolve?

Due to a different habit I’ve developed - tracking goal-related ideas I have in a single place - I went excavating. In my Study list, sitting for the last two months, were these videos:

After watching those videos and reading the PDF below, I figured it would be a nice (awful) intersection chalemgingl resolve and potentially kickstarting my fitness goals.

Here is how a cold shower generally goes for me:

  • Turn on shower
  • Question life choices
  • Stick hand in water because you’ve done this every day for 34 years and you don’t want the water to be too hot
  • Nope. It’s not too hot
  • Question life choices
  • Get into back of shower
  • Close curtain
  • Maybe you can just go back to bed
  • No, this is exactly why you’re doing this
  • Stick head under shower
  • Try not to swear out loud
  • Slowly step forward so water hits my body
  • Physiological responses to cold kick in and i start to breath rapidly
  • Try not to swear so loudly again
  • ????
  • Profit!

There’s a point where your body adjusts1and it starts to feel remarkably calming to be under cold water. his is something ascetic monks have been doing for centuries. Taki shugyo2, a practice of Shugendo, is the essence of resolve. I am finding that after a few minutes it’s actually pleasant and does a good job of waking me up in the morning.

I’m not saying am I even getting close to the fortitude of ascetic monks nor am I on some semi-frozen shiver-you-way-thin kick. Rather, I am build my internal resolve by choosing a specific, controlled amount of discomfort that requires mental and physical endurance. Potential health benefits aside, knowing that I can depend upon my mind to control my body despite discomfort is, frankly, empowering. Starting my day knowing I have done this thing, unpleasant as it is, makes the rest of the day that much easier to tolerate.

In Wants, in Toils, in Perils of the Day,
And strong Temptations that beset thy Way.
Thy best Resolves then in his Strength renew
To walk in Virtue’s Paths, and Vice eschew.
Poor Richard Improved, 1749

The cold water bath was popular in London, even, in 1768. In a letter to Jacques Barbeu-Dubourg in July, Ben Franklin wrote,

…but the shock of the cold water has always appeared to me, generally speaking, as too violent: and I have found it much more agreeable to my constitution, to bathe in another element, I mean cold air. With this view I rise early almost every morning, and sit in my chamber, without any clothes whatever3, half an hour or an hour, according to the season, either reading or writing.

Always the pragmatic man.

This is a good place to start reading on the research into cold shock and the body’s response as it includes more science than trademarks:

  1. Because that’s what bodies do. Your brain tunes things out and the rest responds by, say, increasing respiration so you have more oxygen to run the fuck away.

  2. Waterfall meditation (very roughly translated). See http://www.shugendo.fr/en/water-ascetic.

  3. Wouldn’t you like to know if I wrote this naked?

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