Wim Hof – the extreme-endurance practitioner whose use of ice-cold and breathing techniques have made his name legendary and a brand in its own right – is not one for comfort zones, not in the conventional sense.
After all, if you can reset your ideas of what comfort means, “it’s humanly possible to fend off far more stress than medical science thought possible”, Hof tells Dominic Bowden in episode two of Bowden’s WellBeings podcast.
“Just by the power of my thought … it becomes very attractive and comfortable to go into [so-called] discomfort,” Hof explains. Think ice-baths and other methods of full-body exposure to extreme cold, the sort of seemingly masochistic past-times which have made Hof legendary or notorious, depending on your perspective.
WellBeings is introducing New Zealanders to a range of different experts and perspectives on wellbeing in a world which is both struggling with the extraordinary stresses of the pandemic but also trying to make sense of what he’s dubbed a “wellness epidemic”.
To Hof, many such answers lie in what’s known and branded as”the Wim Hof Method”. Which, beyond the actual method, means people “have to step outside of their mediocre comfort and get into real comfort, real power, real authority with their own bodies and minds”, he explains. To Hof, many such answers lie in what’s known and branded as”the Wim Hof Method”. Which, beyond the actual method, means people “have to step outside of their mediocre comfort and get into real comfort, real power, real authority with their own bodies and minds”, he explains.
Monkey business aside, Hof’s backstory has tragedy to it, which he touches on in WellBeings. His first wife took her life and the resulting darkness and depression led him to his discovery of how exposure to extreme cold and specific breathing techniques could restore the brain’s proper functioning.
“I had four kids, little money, I was heartbroken – my wife had committed suicide… How could I not fall into depression?
“[So] I went into the cold water. Because a depression is a lack of adrenalin and of dopamine, and if you go into cold water, what does it do in the brain? It fills your mind – this is the only moment when you are not thinking about emotional agony or only thinking of the reasons which have led to depression.”
Hof’s story is that he learned to tame and control this technique of resetting the brain to the extent that he is now able to withstand all manner of stresses; and he has disciples across the globe (including New Zealand) who vow by his technique.
Bowden wants WellBeings to be “conversations about the science of feeling good”, and for his part, Hof points to the numerous experiments and tests he has done with various psychiatrists to provide the evidential foundation for his claims. Those claims are far-reaching, and go well beyond learning to cope with stress. He contends the Wim Hof Method is a treatment, a preventative and restorative against all manner of ills, irritations and inflammations.
His message to the sceptics? “Be very critical. That polishes the diamond of the truth. Be critical, but have your two feet on the ground, because I’m doing my science.
“If you are still a sceptic, just try it once, and if it doesn’t work, never do it again. But you will see if you do it once… you are hooked.”
Editor’s note: This edition of the WellBeings podcast contains references to suicide, and some other brief references to adult themes. Please listen with caution, and if the content troubles you, consider contacting an appropriate support service.
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