A year of Hoffing – what the Wim Hof Method has done for me

In between all the publishing turbulence, I wanted to share with you some experiences of a more personal nature. My life isn’t just about books – even though that’s often my focus. Alongside my publishing journey, there’s the dance of my inner experiences, which can be equally stormy.

I’ve lived with depression, anxiety, panic attacks and other emotional troubles since childhood, often enduring long periods of profound misery or blankness. Many elements have contributed to my healing journey over the years, but I’m dedicating this post to the Wim Hof Method and the things that have changed for me over the course of twelve months spent practising it.

This time last year, knowing I’m a bit of a ‘seeker’, a close family friend sent me a YouTube link to a video about Wim Hof.

Known as The Iceman, Wim holds 26 world records, including distance swum under artic ice (188.6 ft), time immersed in ice (1 hour, 53 minutes, 2 seconds) and altitude climbed wearing only shorts and shoes (23,600 ft, Everest).

I’m a bookish fellow, more given to Yoga and Tai Chi than endurance sports or extreme fitness. Nevertheless, I was fascinated by the things Wim speaks about in various interviews and presentations. Among other benefits, his technique alkalinises the blood, reduces inflammation and supercharges the immune system – all of this scientifically verified.

But there was more.

It transpires that Wim’s first wife, and mother to his first four children, committed suicide as a result of depression. He’s said in the past that if he’d been able to teach her the method he subsequently developed, it could have saved her; apparently, reducing inflammation around the brain has a direct and very positive effect on depression. This, perhaps, and Wim’s openness and sincerity about these matters, got my attention.

Could I really affect my psychological and physical wellbeing just by breathing and taking cold showers? After watching a number of Wim’s videos, it seemed entirely possible. What was there to lose in giving it a try?

I was alone in a cottage in Devon about this time last year, starting the gargantuan edit on Gallashan. That was when I first tried the breathing exercise and cold training. Something about it felt so good that I had to keep doing it. And doing it. Every day.

Here I am a year later, feeling healthier than I’ve ever felt, in spite of the crap that life keeps throwing at me.

What’s changed?

  • Bouts of depression are conspicuous in their infrequency these days.
  • When they come, they’re short-lived, lasting minutes or hours, never longer than a day. Previously, a black mood could take weeks or months to clear.
  • I have more energy and less trouble getting out of bed in the morning.
  • I haven’t had a cold or any other illness for a year. Over autumn and winter, I felt the early signs of a cold on a number of occasions, however, by Hoffing more frequently, the symptoms disappeared.

Despite medical science telling us there’s no cure for the common cold, big pharma turns an obscene annual profit peddling remedies. If you go to the doctor with mental health problems, the industry wins again with its arsenal of anti-depressants. Having put Wim Hof’s method to the test, I suggest that greater wisdom and practical application may derive from it than from the effects of a handful of expensive smarties.

That’s why the Wim Hof Method has become one of the mainstays of my daily regime.

If you want to learn how to do it, check the free videos on Wim’s site – you can get the hang of it in a matter of minutes.

7 thoughts on “A year of Hoffing – what the Wim Hof Method has done for me

  1. Hi Joseph, this is such good news!

    I have been dealing with depression and anxiety for over 15 years and started doing the wim hoff method seriously, just over a month ago.

    From my experience, I have definitely felt lifts in my mood and energy after breathing and doing cold showers. However, recently, this does not last very long.

    I was just wondering if you can elaborate on the way and frequency you carry out these techniques. I usually do 4-5 rounds of breathing, then have a shower (cold for 30sec, normal shower and cold for 1 – 3min at end).

    And how long did it take (or at what point, if any) did you begin to feel significant changes to your depression?

    I understand this may seem like a lot of questions but I really feel like the WHM is the solution and probably my final approach to significantly reducing my depression/anxiety.

    ODB.

    1. Hi ODB!

      Thanks for taking the time to read this post and ask a few questions about it.

      I practised the breathing with cold showers religiously for two years. For me this meant doing the breathing sequence daily, at least once but generally a number of times. Sometimes I did the cold training like you – immediately after the breathing – but usually just when I needed a shower. The cold training became a cold-only shower for however long it took to get clean, perhaps 3-5 mins. For those two years, I didn’t have a warm shower at all. I occasionally took a cold bath too.

      I would say that alleviation of depression happened very gradually over the course of the first year but has continued ever since then. We had our shower room refitted in Jan this year and that put an end to my cold training (it’s just too lovely to have a cold shower in there now!). I now practice the breathing daily but I do more of it if I feel unhappy or if I notice the beginnings of a cold.

      To put WHM and depression into context, this has been an almost lifelong challenge, starting in childhood. It just took me a very long time to understand what was wrong. I’ve had other issues, including anxiety, panic attacks, phobias etc but I have to say that, in the last four to five years, almost all of this has passed.

      To give further context, my healing is ongoing and WHM has formed part, but not all, of that process. I am in my fifties now and have been an acupuncturist for almost half of that time. I enjoy working with people who’ve had similar problems, as well as many other health issues. I meditate every day and I have taken particular comfort and peace from the work of Eckhart Tolle. I have intended for a long time to post about Eckhart here on the blog but writing fiction, the day job and life often get in the way. If you haven’t read it, The Power of Now is a life changing book.

      These days, depression is a rare thing for me. But dark thoughts do still lurk. That being the case, I am extremely grateful for the things that have brought me peace thus far. However, the more I learn, the more I realise that there is no end to learning – or healing. I continue to feel better and better about myself and about life.

      Hope this helps and thanks again.

  2. Hi Joseph,

    Thank you so much for taking your time to reply my message, really means a lot.

    I’m really happy you are at a much better space now, meditation is something I have vouched for my depression healing for years, and I am really glad to hear it has been a useful tool for you. ‘The power of now’ has been on my wish list for a while, I would certainly be getting it soon.

    Hearing from someone who has gone through something (even remotely) similar, and is well on the way to recovery, is really heart warming, I am again so grateful for this content and I hope I get to a better place soon.

    PS: This page has been bookmarked, hopefully I’ll be back writing a positive update in a year or two! For now, I’ll carry on hoffing and meditating.

    All the best!

    ODB.

    1. My absolute pleasure!

      At times, the world around us can look so bleak that it hardly seems worth getting out of the box we’re stuck in.

      However, I feel very strongly now that the entire planet is on the cusp of an awekening that will change things for the better for all of us. I talk about it little in this post https://josephdlacey.wordpress.com/2020/07/09/the-search-for-awakening/. I hope you’ll find some light there.

      Meanwhile, be well!

      1. Hi Joseph,

        Thanks for this! I don’t fully understand it at the moment but if I ever feel drawn to this I would share my thoughts.

        Regarding my previous message, I would love to be here saying I feel massively improved but I am still on my journey. Concerning meditation, what would you suggest is the best way to get into Eckhart Tolle?

        And when I meditate I usually focus on my mind as an empty space and observe thoughts and feelings as they pass, as opposed to focusing on my breath; just feels less forced. Any thoughts on this? Do you think its essential to incorporate breathing to meditation?

        ODB.

  3. Greetings Joseph,

    Thanks for your thoughts on handling the “Dark Dog”. I struggle with my dark moods – worsens during winter. I have been exploring various natural techniques for mood alleviation for 4 odd years. I practise focussing on breath meditation and Shikantaza meditation. Initially there was appreciable progress, which was palpable to people around me, however for sometime I seem to have hit a “towering cliff”. Somewhere deep down I know that it has to be surmounted however not sure about how. I was wondering if you have had similar experiences and also any meditation technique that you found to be useful for the dark days. I also practise 4 – 8 and coherent breathing so curious to know if you found any other technqiue other than Wim Hof useful. I have disk prolapse in 3 places and for some reason whenever I practise Wim Hof I end up with back pain in the night.
    Thanks in advance and stay blessed.

    Sajeev

    1. Hello, Sajeev!

      Thanks for taking the time to write a message. I’m sorry to hear you have suffered with this. I have come to the conclusion, however, that the darkness we’ve experienced has something to teach us. The only trouble is, as I’m sure you have felt many times, that when the darkness surrounds you, such platitudes seem meaningless and give little or no comfort.

      Whilst Wim’s techniques have been incredibly helpful, I can’t attribute my healing process entirely to them. I’ve experienced depression since childhood, so as soon as I realised that there were ways to help myself, I began to learn them. The one practise I return to again and again – I’m in my early fifties now, by the way – is meditation. I have been involved with it for about thirty years. (Incidentally, if you experience pain after WHM practise, it might be worth contacting Wim’s association. I think they’re open to giving advice and help to people.)

      Like you, I use following the breath or something similar that I have made my own over time. I have, just as you have, encountered periods – sometimes very protracted – during which I seem to get nothing from meditation. I put this down to excessive mental activity and a surfeit of what Eckhart Tolle refers to as psychological time. In other words, thinking far too much about the remembered past and the imagined future. (If you haven’t encountered Eckhart Tolle and his work, begin with The Power of Now – it’s extremely liberating.)

      The worse my mind gets, the more time I give to meditation. It needn’t be longer sessions but definitely more frequent. The depressive mind is running a cycle, literally repeating the same old thoughts and linked emotions again and again. With each spiral, you sink lower. Meditation breaks this cycle very gently. If I were experiencing your ‘towering cliff’, I would be sitting more often, even if only for ten minutes at a time. Eventually, your insistence will be rewarded with peace and clarity.

      It strikes me as important to mention that we, as humans, love stories. We’re particularly fond of the story we repeat to ourselves, and those we meet, about ourselves, the older we get the more material we can add to this very entertaining tragedy/comedy/farce/whatever. Much of my personal freedom has come from realising how attached I was to my own suffering and how much of my ‘identity’ was rooted there. I am far less interested in my own tale than I used to be. The more I let go of how I feel I ought to be, who I think I am and what people may or may not think of me, the lighter and freer I become. It feels as though I’m gradually turning into no-one-in-particular. I recommend it.

      I still have an ego and a bad temper. From time to time, I still think, act and speak in ways that are unkind to myself and to others. However, in general, I am healing. I would add to all of this that the world itself and humanity as a whole are being invited right now to ascend into greater peace, joy and love than we have known for a very long time – see my post on this process, if it’s of interest https://josephdlacey.wordpress.com/2020/07/09/the-search-for-awakening/. This is a great awakening. However, these rising energies can be hell for sensitive people to deal with. Stay with it. Keep sitting in silence. Keep making space for stillness to arise. Release your grip on the past and allow yourself to be nobody.

      I wish you well.

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