Harvey Dibden-Angus is a Second Year History Student and this years News Editor. Featured Image by Harvey Dibden-Angus.
Wim Hof’s message to all of us is clear- “You can literally do the impossible. You can overcome disease, improve your mental health and physical performance, and even control your physiology so you can thrive in freezing temperatures.” Admittedly, I was full of scepticism when I began reading this book. I am conditioned, like many of us in the Western World are, to put my full faith in conventional science; anything else is surely wishful thinking. After finishing his book however, it is clear that Wim has no intention of following the path of conventional science, and never had. His theories and his practices are far-fetched, but they are simplistic; and they are in fact, all backed up by science. The Wim Hof Method is essentially Wim’s love letter to life, but it is also a self-help book, designed to help us discover what he has discovered for himself. Right from the first chapter it is clear that to Wim the glass is always half full. In under 200 pages, he shares with us how it is possible to reconnect with our inner selves, become free from the chokehold of modern society, and touch back down with nature. His answer to achieving real happiness, starts with the cold. The freezing cold at that.
It is quite easy to disregard Wim’s philosophy as little more than spiritual mumbo jumbo. The bloke is telling me all I need to do to be infinitely happy is to get in uncomfortably cold showers and breathe a lot… oh, and to ‘look inside’. Whatever that means. Regardless of what I think, the ‘Wim Hof Method’ (WHM) has been positively acknowledged by the scientific community, and it has helped thousands of people recover from physical and mental illness. You can’t really argue with that. And if by the end of the book you still aren’t convinced, he has plopped a comprehensive bibliography at the back so you can see for yourselves that this crazy Dutchman who does things like climb Mount Everest in his shorts, is in fact, the real deal.
I immediately felt I needed to do the book some justice by trying out a few of these methods for myself. He suggests that you practice breathing deeply in and out, thirty times, paying full attention to yourself and to your breath. Paying attention to ones breathing is not a ground-breaking discovery; people have been sitting down and focusing on the breath for centuries. What Wim believes is a combination of breathing techniques accompanied by cold exposure, is the best way to regain control of our lives and become more fulfilled. So I did the breathing, and immediately after I was welcomed with a state of blissful awareness. Not bad. I probably would have remained blissfully aware too, did I not have to step into a freezing cold shower straight afterwards. It is too early to tell whether applying these two practices to my morning routine have had any real benefits, but the immediate response after a freezing cold shower is electric. Going from hot to cold is a real shock to the system, but once you spend a minute or so under the cold water, you come out feeling like you could drop kick Sainsburys a good 30 feet. I have a feeling this probably isn’t what he meant when he talks about ‘managing your ego’, but once the effects of the cold shower ware off, you go back to not really wanting to drop kick anything. This isn’t to say that over a few weeks or months I won’t begin to notice the promised effects; after all, consistency is key.
All in all, The Wim Hof Method is an incredibly enjoyable read. His level of optimism is refreshing, his writing easily digestible, and his message is igniting. I can’t imagine I will be venturing out to swim under icy lakes any time soon, but I do plan on taking a more ‘Wim Hof’ approach to life from here on out. His romantic take on the human condition is heartfelt and honest, making this book a must have for anyone seeking self–improvement. I think many of us who lead extremely taxing and stressful lives could benefit from taking some time out to reconnect with nature, find some degree of peace from within, and just breathe. Oh and be a bit cold every now and then.