I have been home alone for a week which has made me able to pursue my hobby of “turning off the utilities”; specifically, this week, I have not used any gas for heating air or water (I have used gas for cooking).

You may remember me talking about navy showers last summer. Those water saving showers never really amounted to anything. Once we got the water heater working, we switched back to our normal water wasting showers. Yes, yes, I fell into temptation!

However, as you may know, California has something of a water crisis, because the subtropical belts (where it doesn’t rain all that much) are shifting pole wise due to planetary heating. In the future, this means water rationing; also LPG comes in finite quantities, so whatever water is there will likely be colder. Hence I figured I wanted to use the week to experiment to see how it is to take freezing cold showers and to tell you the truth: It’s actually not that bad.

Here’s the secret. All animals have a temperature tolerance range outside of which they become uncomfortable and eventually die. Now, this comfort range can be shifted as one changes one’s environment. For instance, when we moved to CA from the midwest, where 50F in the Spring was considered quite balmy, it didn’t take more than a year before 50F was considered frigging cold requiring expedition level clothing. Conversely, 95F days aren’t as bad as they used to be.

The problem was that as modern civilized humans we are very used to using technology to prevent this adaption. We use central air condition to keep our inside temperatures (house and car) constant all year around with the result that going outside (they place without a ceiling) always causes some discomfort … too warm, too cold, too bright, blah blah blah.

Having kept the heat off, it took me about 5 days to get used to the idea that on cold days, the RV gets colder, and that on warm days, the RV get warmer and you open the windows to get a draft going. Yes, not fans or air conditioners either; it’s quite doable. In fact, I don’t think our very impressive neighbors keep the heat on at all. They always leave the door open even mid-winter, which admittedly is only about 50F here.

Cold showers are pretty much an awful experience for the first few days. What usually happens is that one tries them … and then one gives up … too soon. The reason for this failure is the same reason that new years resolutions do not work. A few days is not long enough to adapt. Once you’re adapted, they’re actually pretty good but in a different way.

For me, a warm shower means getting out of a warm bed and trying to replace it as fast as possible with 10 minutes of warm water time, which I want to extend because I don’t want to get out into the colder air. Drying off and putting on clothes doesn’t help much.

For a cold shower there is still some resistance towards getting out of bed, but once up, the cold air doesn’t bother me. I can easily do 55F in my underwear. I can feel it’s cold, but it doesn’t bother me, because _I_ don’t feel cold. It is similar to being strong. You can feel that the weight is heavy, but you’re still moving it. The cold shower is not fun, but it’s doable. Getting out of the cold shower is no problem. The air is warmer and after getting dressed, everything is toasty.

Now, if you were an alien from another planet and you had to choose between these two experiences: which one would you choose?

I’d pick the later.

Why are most people stuck in the former? Because it’s addictive and there’s a lot of upfront short term comfort to be had. It is this preference that gets people addicted to sugar, coffee, cigarettes, debt, central heating, driving, … There is a short term benefit but a long term cost. Conversely, if you do it “the hard way”, which turns out not to be so hard, there’s a short term cost, but a long term benefit.

For some reason, it is very hard to convey this concept to addicts. They empathetically simply do not understand how someone can be happy without the high or the comfort, because they don’t consider the hangover. Getting into debt takes 5 minutes: Paying it off takes a year. And so on.

I suspect this is the main difference between those who are successful in the long run and those who keep struggling: The willingness to delay short term gratification.