On New Year’s Day we made our annual pilgrimage down to Lake Ontario to greet the year. We bring hot chocolate and tea, and a small fire bowl more for the ambiance than warmth, and throw stones in the water and connect with nature.
Last year, somewhat impulsively, I took off my shoes and socks, rolled up my pant legs and went for a dip. The effect on my mood – which until then had been sullen and miserable – was instant and dramatic. I laughed and sang and told bad jokes all the way home.
My wife suggested I look into the whole ‘cold water immersion’ thing, and for the next few months I did breathing exercises and turned off the hot water in the shower for the last 30 seconds.
Then I kind of stopped doing all that. Not any reason other than inertia. I was in a good spot mentally, and let’s face it, cold showers can be unpleasant.
Fast forward to this January and our annual visit. This time I tell the family I intend to go for a dip. I bring a towel and everything.
We get down to the water and the wind is howling, and the waves are crashing. It’s a very different circumstance to the previous year. “I don’t know if I’m going to do it.” I tell my long-suffering wife.
“Just do it.” she insists. “Just dip your feet in.”
So I do. And it is cold. Breath snatchingly, heart poundingly cold. It’s glorious.
I last only a few seconds and I’m back on the beach with a small fire and a hot chocolate.
Polar bear dips are great, I suppose. For some people. I have friends who do them ever year. But your whole body? In that cold? That takes commitment. And a certain level of courage.
But what if you don’t want to go all the way in and instead just dip your toes? Is there anything wrong with that?
Business culture – the hyper aggressive foundation of much of what we have internalized – says “burn the boats!” or “Go hard or go home!”. To what end?
We know that some things done incrementally can yield huge results. Just look at making compost. Or compound interest.
So maybe this is the year you just dip your toes a little to see if you like it. From there you can make a decision. The important thing is to just start.