Stories we tell ourselves: cold water

Jumping into cold water is one of those ‘no thanks’ experiences for me.

During winter, @andrewonadventure and I took the kids to Bad Ragaz—to the thermal baths.

Sounds poshy-pants. Looks poshy-pants too. But seems especially poshy-pants to me because, in Australia, spas and indoor public baths aren’t so much a part of the culture. Because what would be the point? We have beaches. We have good swimming pools. We’re an outdoor culture.

Bad Ragaz

In the northern countries of the world (Scandinavian countries especially), they do saunas and spas and all sorts of hot water therapy with great style, and the longer I stay in Switzerland the more I realise how awesome it is to do stuff like this in winter. (Another post on the benefits of hot water another time perhaps.)

But back to cold water.

One of the pools at Bad Ragaz is 17ºC. Doesn’t sound so cold, but if you’re like me (a cold bod—Vata, introvert, lazy, whatever you like to attribute it to), the idea of plunging into cold water after you’ve been luxuriating in a sauna or hot bath isn’t appealing.

(It’s the same for The Reflux Kid. He gets out of the bath and instantly curls up in a ball on the floor and hides under his towel. Then he spends the next five minutes saying, ‘I’m cold!’ …)

But there’s the rub. It’s the idea that’s the problem. Tell yourself it’s cold and it’ll be awful … and it probably will be.

Tell yourself a different story, and the chances are you’ll get in the water faster, and you’ll have much more fun.

I call it reframing, and it’s all about having the presence of mind to be able to step back from your emotions and let go of the story you’re telling yourself.

But, as Tony Schwartz says, ‘We can’t change what we don’t notice‘ (he has a whole chapter about this in one of his books), and this presence or mindfulness is not something we can instantly have. It takes practise and time. Another slow-cooked skill.

One of the things I’m working on at the moment is how to teach my kids this skill (I’m working on a Microstory at the moment that I can give to The Reflux Kid), but it’s very hard to teach. Once our kids reach a certain age (tween/teen) they aren’t as open to hearing advice from parents. They start to look to other adults and their peers for this. Which is natural and good, but it also means that it’s more important for parents to (as writers would say) ‘show, don’t tell’. Less with the blah blah. We need to dig deep and try to lead by example.

For me, this means reminding myself to verbalise what’s going on when I’m faced with a challenge (like, for example, jumping into cold water) … and drawing my son’s attention to the fact that I have a choice in how I think about something.

I can choose the story I tell myself.

And hoping that, somehow, some of it sticks.

Zürisee by @libby_ol
The stories we bring to images: A late sunset on a balmy summer’s eve …? Nope. It was sunrise, early spring, and 6ºC.


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