Wim Hof found stillness in the cold. While battling grief in the wake of his beloved wife’s suicide, he felt drawn to icy water. Immersing in it brought a rush of adrenaline, a spike and then deep subsiding of heart rate and, ultimately, clarity.
Hof now seeks to champion the remarkable healing properties of deep breathing and cold water immersion. What’s even more impressive? Wim isn’t kidding around. His feats prove just how serious he is about his philanthropic mission, because not only has cold water and breathing helped his mental health, it has also allowed him to train his body to withstand incredible extremes. He ran a half marathon in the Arctic, barefoot, wearing only shorts. He swam underneath solid arctic ice for over 66 meters. He climbed Kilimanjaro in shorts. He’s withstood complete immersion in a container while buried in ice cubes for hours.
Wim doesn’t want to be seen as a charlatan, preaching a fake art for financial gain. He goes out of his way to invite science into his practices. He also lives by his motto, ‘what I am capable of, everybody can learn,’ by running a school where students can learn his ways.
In 2014, a scientific study at Radboud University in the Netherlands was conducted on Wim Hof practitioners and Hof himself. The goal was to see if Wim’s claims about the teachability of his methods were true: could anybody do what Wim does? Researchers injected 12 of his students with an endotoxin. Like Wim Claimed, the results showed that all 12 were able to control their sympathetic nervous system and immune response to the toxin. Anti-inflammatory mediators were 200% higher, while pro-inflammatory mediators were 50% lower than the control group. Researchers concluded that the Wim Hof method had important implications for “conditions associated with excessive or persistent inflammation, especially autoimmune diseases.” (Knox et. al. 2014).
In 2018, another study was conducted on just Wim himself, aiming to uncover which brain function allows him to withstand such cold temperatures. Results showed that areas of his brain associated with pain suppression, self-reflection and well-being were all activated.
Wim is a true wellness warrior, not just in championing the methods that helped him recover from a tragic life event, but also in living to serve and give the same gift to others. His social media pages radiate positivity as he implores his followers to join him and find themselves in the cold.