It’s not every day you catch up with the Ice Man himself – not at sea level anyway. In between peaking Mt Everest in his underwear and desperately finding his way underneath arctic ice sheets, Wim Hof squeezed in some time to speak with us about Mental Health. Listen up to how TheWimHof Method is set to change mental health care forever.
You have 26 world records, what’s your most extreme record to date?
To be honest, they all need full commitment to do them – I never knew what the outcome would be for any of them. But the one I most impressed myself with, was my swim under the Arctic ice. Going under the water and getting lost under the ice was quite claustrophobic. I was under there for a terribly long time, around five minutes, but somehow had no fear during this time. In fact, I was under there so long that my retinas froze! The thing is, I never felt the agony of drowning or dying, and that is the most amazing part!
How did you manage to survive getting lost under an Arctic ice sheet?
The combination of my mind being very determined, together with the breathing, made my alchemy completely in control. In this moment, I found out that I was not experiencing agony, nor was I drowning, I was just fading away and going to sleep.
It sounds like this was a near-death experience for you?
Nature has the answers to what we still see as questions.
We still see impossibilities.
Oh yes, without doubt. I conquered my fear of dying. I saw and experienced something else that has since stayed with me. I’ve had many situations which have really taught me and impressed me, so much more than I’d ever imagined or read about. It was very interesting. There is a lot more knowledge than besides what the books are writing about. Nature has the answers of what we still see as questions. We still see them as impossibilities.
What is your ice-cold method?
A cold shower a day keeps the doctor away! It enables us to access the depth in our physiology - the way we were all built which makes us alive. Our wearing of clothes and comfort zone behaviours have stunted us - we don’t live by nature anymore, but our nature still lives within us and it wants to be fed. We have found a specific way to stimulate this through breathing techniques that awaken our deep physiology - it takes away cellular stress on a biological level. The vascular system is stimulated and invigorated and this helps the heart rate go down by 20-30 beats per minute, ultimately the stress will go.
Check out the free WimHofMethod tutorials on the website
How should somebody approach their first ice cold shower?
Never get straight in there. First do the breathing exercises that make your body alkaline and then your body can control and react directly. We are made up of 100,000km of capillaries, arteries and veins and their function is best stimulated by a cold shower. Anybody can go into natural cold waters in Scotland, Wales and England – we have the right conditions to optimise the transportation system of good chemicals throughout our bodies. In turn, the heart becomes healthier because it does not need to pump as much as there is less cortisol in the body.
My kids made me survive but nature healed me.
Can your method help treat mental health – anxiety, depression?
I was depressed for years due to emotional grief. My wife took her life in 1995 - she jumped from the 8th floor down and I was left alone with four kids to bring up. I lost the love of my life. I was not only heartbroken but deeply depressed. My kids made me survive but nature healed me.
I am currently working alongside pioneering neuroscientists aiming to beat conditions like bi-polar, depression, anxiety and trauma. We’ve got it! It’s only a matter of time now. In brain scans I’ve showed how to activate certain parts of the brain which enable us to tackle such out of balance conditions. It’s all due to inflammation - coming from the gut and going up into our nervous system, through the blood, into the brain and through the brain barriers, and then we call it depression. It deregulates hormonal homeostasis and knocks us out of balance. We now have a way to rebalance that and reactivate those parts of the brain – the prefrontal cortex and insular. Whenever stress comes into the brain, we are able to look at the stress, be with it and make change - from stress to stress-less beings.
What simple and best technique would you advise somebody with anxiety or bipolar to incorporate into their every day?
Whenever you feel the condition is coming, you can feel it. You know at this certain moment – it’s the chemistry. If you do these specific breathing techniques (on my website), you will be able to manipulate the pressure rising and alkalise the blood. They help you access the nervous system, go up into the brain stem and activate the periaquaductal grey hemisphere – the most primitive part of the brain stem in which we thought we had no control over. However, now I have shown that we can control this entirely. These techniques ultimately activate the opiates and cannabinoids in our brains. In effect, pain can be reduced and feelings of utter euphoria are created. Through simple breathwork techniques, people learn to control their pain and their brain activity and can beat mental disorders.
The neurology of our brains is now more able than it’s ever been to grasp this. The simple technique here is to go by self-awareness and connect deeply with true breathing inside of our physiology and become the alchemist.
What advice would you give somebody with anxiety/depression to keep headstrong:
Breathing exercises and a cold shower. Keep it simple. Just do it.
Where next for mental health?
Right now, we are battling and will change mental health care. Those are not my words, those are the words of the professors. We have now completed studies on inflammation, chronic pain and patient trials on rheumatic conditions that are inflammation based, with spectacular results. Presently more studies are being completed and will be ready for publication soon, and then we will be able to get into mainstream and share our findings. Finally, we will be able to show people that we are all built to be happy, healthy and strong – we all have the innate capacity. That is much more exciting than climbing Mt Everest backwards in my shorts on my hands!