It is widely understood that the mind-body connection is important, but did you know that it has the power to change your life? In this week’s blog and podcast (one of my personal favorites!) I spoke to the “Iceman” Wim Hof about the incredible capacity we all have to control our thinking and change our biology, overcome toxic stress and stay strong amidst major crises like the current pandemic.
Wim Hof got his nickname by breaking a number of records related to cold exposure. His feats include climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in shorts, running a half marathon above the Arctic Circle on his bare feet, and standing in a container while covered with ice cubes for more than 112 minutes!
Having embraced the majestic force of nature, Wim became convinced that everyone can tap into this potential without having to invest the same decades worth of study, travel and daring, so he developed the Wim Hof Method: a natural path to an optimal state of body and mind. This method has 3 pillars, which Wim explains in detail in his Fundamentals Online Course:
1. Cold exposure:
This is a form of cardio-vascular training that is focused on adapting your body to cold temperatures over time. This exposure helps improve blood flow, energy levels, muscle strength, heart rate, oxygen levels, and our ability to handle stress (by reducing cortisol levels), all of which help improve mood and give us the mental and physical wherewithal to handle challenges and toxic situations.
Wim recommends starting with a 30 second cold shower, and then increasing this to 2 to 3 minutes over a period of 10 days. This will help you adapt to the temperature, while reaping the many health benefits of cold exposure. As Wim says, a cold shower a day keeps the doctor away!
2. Deep breathing:
Most of us live in a de-stimulated environment—we are conditioned to comfort. As a result, we have become accustomed to shallow breathing, which can lead to a lazy immune system. We have not become inoculated against stressful or hazardous situations (like the current COVID-19 pandemic) because they are so rare in our modern society, so when we do face a crisis our bodies often do not know what to do, and our mental and physical health suffers as a result.
Thankfully, there are ways we can re-train the body to handle stress, which is why deep breathing is so important! Through controlled hypoxia (depriving the body of oxygen), studies have shown how deep breathing alkalinises and resets the body, which stimulates the immune system, allowing for a quick response to external pathogens like viruses and bacteria and better blood flow. In fact, deep breathing, or breathing in a way that challenges your body, helps oxygen get into the bone marrow, which boosts the immune system and facilitates internal healing!
Wim Hof has an amazing free app that can help you learn how to make deep breathing a daily habit, so check it out! He also has a free mini-class online that teaches the power of deep breathing, cold exposure and meditation.
As I have mentioned many times before, thoughts are real things that have real power, but many of us do not understand or know how to use this power. We actually have the innate capacity within us to tackle stressful situations and experiences in every way. Our mind is our greatest weapon, but this weapon has been blunted by our relatively comfortable lives, so that when we do face disasters like the current pandemic we are at a loss at what to do and do not know how to handle our fears and anxieties.
When we learn to activate the deepest part of the brains by consciously thinking and choosing, however, we can connect with different parts of the brain, control our body temperature and manipulate our physiology! This, in turn, enables us to control our mood and feelings, so that when we are faced with difficult life situations, we can find peace in the eye of the storm. We can essentially vaccinate our minds and bodies against the toxic effects of stress, fear and anxiety! As Wim says, the power of the mind is the future.
This controlled consciousness starts with an awareness of your thinking, letting your mind clear and setting your intention. When you do this, you are essentially mastering the art of being okay with being uncomfortable: you become consciously aware of what is going on externally and internally, and see your body shift and change to deal with the stressful situation. You let go of “noisy” thoughts and embrace awkward, hard and difficult reality with the knowledge that “you got this!”. As you do this, you will realize that you can have peace in the eye of the tornado. You can control how you react to life!
Research done on Wim’s method has actually shown these changes happen in his brain and body. In fMRI scans researchers saw that, by applying the three pillars of his method, regions in Wim’s periaqueductal gray area were activated, the part of the brain that is the primary control center for pain suppression. This is a promising discovery that could lead to a potential role for the Wim Hof method as an endogenous painkiller, and reflects results we already see today in people who effectively use this method to combat tough conditions!
In another experiment, practitioners of the Wim Hof Method were able to control their sympathetic nervous system and their immune response. These participants were injected with an endotoxin (e. coli) after being trained in Wim’s method, and showed fewer symptoms, lower levels of pro-inflammatory mediators, and increased levels of plasma epinephrine—their immune systems were successfully battling the bacteria! This could mean that the Wim Hof Method is an effective tool to battle symptoms of various autoimmune diseases.
Not only has Wim used these methods to overcome some of the harshest conditions known to man, it also helped him deal with his wife’s suicide. Cold exposure, deep breathing and meditation stilled his raging mind, helping him deal with his agonizing grief and gave him the strength to raise four young children alone.
Based on his own experiences, Wim adamantly believes that learning to harness the mind-body connection is a way to help people suffering from mental ill-health and distress. The Wim Hof method offers practical, real solutions that not only increase the resilience of brain and body, but also give people back a sense of control over their lives by tapping into their natural, meditative state of mind. This is not just a coping mechanism; it is a way to learn to control the mind 24/7.
For more information on deep breathing, cold exposure, the power of the mind-body connection and mental health, listen to my podcast with Wim Hof (episode #151), check out his website, online course and app. If you enjoy listening to my podcast please consider leaving a 5-star review and subscribing! And keep sharing episodes with friends and family, and on social media (don’t forget to tag me so I can see your posts!).
Podcast Time Stamps
6:20 Why we are easily overcome with fear and stress
9:10 Why we have got so lazy with our thinking.
10:13, 50:00 Wim’s incredible story
16:00 We can make our brains bodies happier, healthier and stronger through our mind.
20:30 How did Wim Hof develop his method?
24:31 Tips to deal with crises like COVID-19
27:45 What is the Wim Hof method?
46:34 Finding peace in the eye of the storm
50:00 How to heal a broken heart
55:00 The “super brain” study
1:05:00 The power of mind management
1:11:25 Nature or nurture?
If you would like to learn more about the power of the mind-body connection and mental health, join me at my Mental Health Solutions Summit in Dallas, TX December 3-5, 2020! This conference is for everyone: teachers, CEOs, students, parents, doctors, life coaches...everyone! For more information and to register click here. Early bird special pricing end 4/30!
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