Mid-lockdown, I was battling with low energy and mood and, if you told me that six months later, I’d feel happier than ever before, full of ideas, sleeping like a baby and taking a cold shower every morning, I would not have believed you. Then I discovered Wim Hof, 61, whose The Wim Hof Method has taken the world by storm.
Hof is a force of nature who’s broken 20 world records relating to cold exposure, including climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in shorts, running a half-marathon in the Arctic Circle barefoot and standing in a container covered with ice cubes for longer than 112 minutes. He has been at the centre of multiple scientific experiments and has converted a multitude of sceptics by being the first person to demonstrate the ability to influence the immune system. The benefits of his method have been validated by eight university studies. He’s helped people with life-altering diseases achieve what they believed to be impossible.
Dubious at first, I did his breathing exercises and took daily cold showers. I could not believe the effect on my mood, energy and creativity. I invite you to conduct your own month-long experiment. Commit to Hof’s three simple practices and see how you feel after four weeks. Let us know how you get on!
Wim Hof ’s three-pillar approach
Hof focuses on a basic, three-pronged approach that anyone can adopt to improve their health and performance. You’ll learn how to use three key elements – breathing, mindset and cold showers – to access the deepest parts of your brain and master mind over matter. ‘Anyone can use my methods and see real results within a few days,’ says Hof.
- While seated or lying down, take 30 to 40 full, conscious breaths: Breathe fully into the belly and the chest, then let go, without force.
- On your final exhalation, let your breath out and hold it out for as long as you can without discomfort. Listen to your body and don’t force it!
- When you feel the urge to breathe again, take a deep breath in, hold for 10 to 15 seconds, then release and relax.
- Repeat the above steps two or three more times, paying attention to how you feel. Adjust your breathing as needed.
- Rest in this elevatedstate until you are ready to move on with your day, or use the energy you have just generated for your morning workout or yoga practice. Experiment with what feels right for you.
- Before you get up from your breathing practice, bring up a thought in your mind, such as: ‘I feel happy, healthy and strong.’
- Reflect on this thought and notice how your body feels.
- If you identify any inner resistance to your intention, just keep breathing steadily until you feel an alignment between your body and mind. With practice, your sense of your inner experience will sharpen, allowing you to more consciously observe and control your body and mind.
3. Cold showers
- At the end of your usual warm shower, turn the water to cold.
- If you like, you can start by first putting your feet and legs under the water, then your arms, then your full torso.
- Do not do the aforementioned basic breathing exercise while standing in the shower.
- Gradually extend your exposure every day until you can handle two minutes in the cold water.
Photograph: Getty Images
Words: Suzy Walker