With the fear of Coronavirus permeating the world, everyone is questioning how to keep their immune systems strong. While there is no proven cure to this virus, there are plenty of ways to keep your immune system functioning optimally – whether by exercising, eating right, or decreasing your stress levels. However, I’d like to talk about one method in particular that has had a life-changing effect on me, and that is the Wim Hof Method.
The Wim Hof Method
Research has shown that the mind and body are connected, but to what extent? How do our nervous systems play a role in how our bodies react to real negative stimuli – such as disease, mental stressors and extreme temperature changes?
A Man of Ice
The “Ice Man” Wim Hof is known to have 26 world records, and mainly around the coldest of conditions. He has a world record for staying in contact with ice for the longest time, and is known to have climbed both Everest and Kilimanjaro in nothing but shorts and boots. The Wim Hof Method has 2 main objectives – meditating via deep inhalation breathing, and daily cold showers. The intention of these practices are to activate the sympathetic nervous system in order to build up a more effective immune system. Wim’s efforts are dedicated to raising awareness to a new form of healing that be can be voluntarily accessed by anyone who is willing to let it happen, with training.
Wim’s claims are backed by real research. In one published study, Wim Hof is used as an example of how we can manipulate our bodies through what used to be known as our involuntary bodily system. The study noted that “the sympathetic nervous system and immune system can indeed be voluntarily influenced.” To replicate the study, scientists even had followers of his undergo a series of tests to demonstrate the power of their internal immunities vs. those of regular people. The results were remarkable, and according to an NIH report, “such a training program could have important implications for the treatment of, for instance, autoimmune diseases.” The Wim Hof Method clearly demonstrates the possibility of preventing sickness through active manipulation of the immune system.
Even recent studies have pointed towards the beneficial effects of oxygenating the body. Nobel prize winner William G. Kaelin noted in a study that oxygen plays a large role in the activation of a tumor suppression gene called VHL. Among this, William’s prize-winning study documents the mechanism by which cells in the body sense and adapt to low oxygen availability.
I’ve started taking cold showers and practice deep breathing ~5 times per week. Not only does it slowly build up my tolerance to the cold, but it also helps to clear my head and allows me to feel more present. Furthermore, I haven’t been sick since I’ve started this routine, and plan on continuing my work in hacking my immune system.
While I’ve definitely focused on the benefits of such a routine, it’s no surprise that cold showers can very painful. This brings me to the real reason I wrote this article – many people have asked me how I can take cold showers and still come out wanting to do one the next day. In response to this, here are some steps to help you take Wim Hof cold showers:
How to Tolerate Cold Showers
1. Start Hot
When I take a shower, I start with a hot temperature, mostly just to get my body used to the water and to also clean my skin – hot water does in fact kill bacteria. I’ll usually stay in the hot water a few more minutes, and then slowly start to turn it a bit cooler to help me adjust.
2. “Warm Up” to the cold
On a typical shower heat dial, I will turn the heat halfway between the coldest shower possible and the hot level I was just at. Usually, even this stage sends a little shock up my spine, but the key component here is to relax everything, and most importantly – breathe. This is the first stage where I begin my Wim Hof breathing: Inhalations as deep as possible, with full exhales (but not as deep as possible). I like to breathe in hard, and hold my breath to get my body adjusted to the temperature upon breathing out.
3. Crank it up – but relax
Once you feel like you’ve relaxed to the intermediary stage and have successfully “warmed up” to the cold, this is where you turn it down. Turning it down can mean a slight hit of the dial, or it could mean a bigger twist, depending on your experience with cold showers. At this point, there will always be a shock to your system, as the cold can become seemingly unbearable. However, this is where Wim Hof breathing and relaxation become the most important, so maximum inhalations followed by big exhales are important to keep your body from keeping a state of shock. If it’s too much for you, then stop right away. Just remember to relax and consciously remind your body to relieve all tension you may be feeling. For me, I have to relax my shoulders and uncross my arms or else they’ll both tense up during this stage.
4. Reward yourself with heat
After a cold shower, I like to turn the temperature back to warm. Please note: I do not turn the temperature to hot, or else the shock to my body can cause a light-headed sensation. Instead, I’ll gradually warm myself back up. Bringing the water back to warm also makes you more comfortable before getting out – so your hair isn’t dripping wet with ice and making you question if you want to do a cold shower in the future.
Once you’re done, you’ll feel amazing. Your body will feel ready to handle anything, and your once stressed-out brain will become mellow and able to better tolerate the up’s and down’s of the day with stride.
One last thing before I’d like to note – the Wim Hof method is very powerful, and with that power it can be very dangerous. When not properly executed, I have read about people fainting, and even having seizures. This has never happened to me, because when I feel very light headed, I stop. This post is for learning purposes only, and if you try doing the Wim Hof method, make sure you realize the risks that can accompany it if you don’t follow instructions.
Hope you all stay happy, healthy, and safe during these unpredictable times.
P.S. – Need some other tips on how to help your immune system? Check out Jac’s article on How to Naturally Strengthen Your Immune System too!