As I began my internship in SPRING over the past few weeks, I began to re-think and reflect upon my previous profession in the military. I worked as an OCS instructor, where my main task was to instruct and train officer cadets into competent, committed and confident officers of the Singapore Armed Forces.
While the horrific flashbacks of leopard crawling up and down a knoll coupled with the fond memories of commissioning on the parade square began to replay itself in my mind, a curious thought popped out of nowhere:
Why does the SAF only have cold showers?
I was really quite intrigued by this because for the most of us, we were forced to give up our comforts and pleasures in exchange for a life of rigour and compliance. Here are some things most soldiers have to do.
Wake up by 5.30am and sleep by 10.30pm
March not walk
Route Marches with a heavy-ass field packs
Outfields (Let’s not even go there)
And only get weekends off (and sometimes we burn our weekends off in the forest or doing duty)
By right, we have given up so much, shouldn’t we be given some sort of welfare like a warm shower to soothe the body of the aches, bites and dirt our body has been ravaged with?
As I delved deeper into uncovering the mystery of why the SAF only has cold showers (for the most part, unless you are at the swimming pool), I found out 5 reasons why having cold showers were actually necessary!
The military is financed by taxpayer’s money and 10% of our budget is purely allocated for military expenses. So, if every shower has an installed heater then the SAF could really get into hot water.
Furthermore, cold water means you bathe faster, and they save money!
(But then again, we pay our PM $1.7m a year, so…)
The health benefits are incredulous. For example, the cold water jacks up your metabolism as the body needs to produce energy to heat your body to raise your temperature back to normal levels (which helps make sure we as soldiers do not get too fat with all those carbs we are eating). So, if you want fit and healthy soldiers, cold showers might be a health hack to creating these super soldiers! (tell me you get the pun)
While these two pointers come off as quite ‘duh’ and ‘simple‘, the next three reasons are subtle and completely underrated, especially in the area of building your discipline.
Suck It Up
Every day when I took a cold shower(especially when I return from the wondrous playground of nature also known as Asrama), I groan and grimace (to myself), inhale a deep breath and force myself to withstand the torrent of cold water running through my body.
I knew that the shower was necessary and I MUST follow through it, so I just need to suck it up. What a daily cold shower did for me was engineer adversity into my life.
Out of it, I built a habit of endurance that imbued in me a perspective that helped me embrace discomfort as a necessary journey to go through rather than seeking to negotiate an escape plan from it. This is essential for every soldier (or anyone looking to build his internal fortitude). A soldier more often than not (being from Infantry, I speak for the infanteers) has to be called to trek through the undulating hills through the night, bash through branches and thick vegetation only to be greeted by people shooting at you upon the arrival at your objective.To actually persevere throughout the journey, the mindset the soldier possesses must be one that takes this. He sees the benefits of the hardship and does not try to escape it.
Truly, a cold shower daily goes a long way to ingrain the mentality of toughness.
Only the necessary
No one wants to stand under the cold shower idly. The situation of discomfort coerced me to be efficient with my soap, shampoo and body.
Even after a long and gruelling outfield, the cold shower that comes after is a stark reminder to all soldiers that we are still soldiers. I am not there to enjoy the shower, I am there to get myself clean. For the three minutes, I stay in the cubicle, I maximise my time and efforts to make sure I get clean.In the very same sense, the mentality of “only the necessary” in the army is highly valued.
Just like a cold shower, keeps our minds lasered in on the end goal of cleaning ourselves up. When tasked with a difficult mission, soldiers require a clarity of mind with a focus on the mission. And everything we do or bring is centred on achieving mission success. This complements the rationale of a standardised 10 pack item set, section stores and mission essentials. As soldiers, in the face of adversity, we only carry what we need and do what is absolutely necessary. So, what showering in icy cold water taught me was deliberate minimal efforts in tough situations can yield the maximum results.
Pro-tip: when showering turn off the faucet to shampoo and soap at the same time. Soap first then shampoo (this way you will never have to deal with the shampoo getting in your eyes)
When you shower in cold water from Monday to Friday and consume dining hall food with low protein and too many carbohydrates, the weekends become a welcomed respite.
These daily cold showers reshaped my outlook on life to appreciate the smallest things in life. To have warm water running through my hair while taking my “own sweet time” to shampoo my head was indeed a beautiful thing. After all, contentment is not a definite goal we can achieve. Conversely, as Socrates famously said, “He who is not contented with what he has, would not be contented with what he would like to have.”
Ironically, it took me the forced cold showers to teach me the beauty of warm showers.
Call to Action:
Even now, when I wake up, I get in the shower and get the cold water running. (I start with warm water and turn it to cold because I still want the shiok feeling of warm water in the morning) This has become a part of my daily morning routine to make sure I get my butt ready for a day of grind ahead.
My ritual of forced cold showers was really one of those truly underrated rituals that really toughened me up to ensure the tougher times outfield. And if you want to improve your self-discipline and force yourself to embrace the challenges of life, go ahead and try a cold shower. I would be more than interested to find out if it actually helps.