Reclaiming a Love for the Elements

Homo sapiens were badasses once upon a time—migrating to and inhabiting nearly every inhospitable crevice of our planet without any succor from modern technology. Led on by the march of decadence, we’ve become fat, lazy, weak and sick; we’re a mere shadow of our species just a century ago.

Cold Exposure

Enter Wim Hof, who has hit on something primordial by spending hours in the snow, climbing wintry mountains and running Arctic marathons in a pair of shorts. If all of us couldn’t do similar feats, humans wouldn’t have gotten very far as a species. That is precisely Hof’s point.

Losing touch with this ability is part of the bigger picture of declining physical and mental health in developed countries. Without enough cold or heat stress, the immune system goes haywire. Physical activity and cold exposure leave you feeling euphoric. The most intriguing is that there is some preliminary scientific evidence that Hof’s methods can train people to consciously rev their immune systems up or down.

The Method

It takes less than ten minutes to learn the breathing the method; this video will get you started. Once you get the breathing down, your cold and heat tolerance will dramatically increase. The breathing ties into meditation—you have to do something while you’re not breathing for two minutes. This mental clarity eases stress, anxiety and depression. Results aren’t instant, but you’ll notice a quick boost right away and a more serious shift within weeks.

The Science

Wim Hof is a practitioner but open to being investigated by serious scientists. Here’s some where to get started learning more about the method:

  1. A general overview of the method
  2. Scott Carney’s TEDx Talk is a quick primer to the whole idea of cold tolerance being innately human
  3. Carney’s book, What Doesn’t Kill Us
  4. Rhonda Patrick’s interview with Hof
  5. Vice Documentary about Hof

Actually Jumping into the Cold

I love practicing the method. If you do any sort of mindfulness or meditation, the breathing method and breath retentions are very centering. The cold showers are an acquired tasted, but now that I’m used to them I actually enjoy them.

Practicing the method has made me want to be closer to the current temperature outside than a ‘comfortable’ room temperature. I’m just fine without a jacket in moderate cold and a light jacket throughout the winter.

A cold shower is a huge mood booster. I somehow feel warm and happy stepping out of my frigid shower.

The Tip of the Iceberg

Embracing the cold is only the beginning of a few life hacks that can bring big results from relatively little effort: fasting, going towards a paleo-ish diet and cutting down on artificial light in the evening.