What I thought were eccentricities born of writing a book on alcohol turn out to be a “thing”—a thing called the Wim Hof Method.
It is surprisingly easy it is to slip into a daily routine redolent of a Victorian lunatic asylum.
I had learned regular deep, diaphragm breathing and breath-holding exercises can calm our nervous systems. So I did them.
And an intrepid friend lured me into distinctly nippy sea swimming off Brighton, having a clear mood-boosting and soothing effect.
It tallied with some research suggesting cold water exposure might also help downshift our nervous systems.
Sea-less, I improvised with cold showers, applying the key pro tip of starting slowly and, above all, relaxing.
The connection to my book is that these methods may help tackle two common drivers of alcohol consumption, anxiety and low mood.
A bid to overcome these two are among the most common reasons we choose to drink alcohol. Fine, except it makes them worse.
Knowing this gives a strong motive to look for new ways to soothe our woes, one or two might actually work.
Like for Tigger, it is our ability to bounce which seems to make us feel sustained happiness, not simply accumulating highs.
More than any one thing, for me this has meant making a habit of saying Yes to things which might add some boing.
Less than outlandish
After outlining my penchant for heavy breathing and cold showers over coffee the other day, I expected at least a raised eyebrow.
But, no, far from being taken aback, my companion just said, “Oh, you mean the Wim Hof Method?” I was a little crestfallen.
It turns I had concocted a homespun version of a routine popularised by Dutch daredevil Wim Hof, who has ascended Everest in just shorts.
The official routine involves more vigorous breathing and a super-long breath hold. Mine was over three minutes this morning.
And the cold exposure is longer than mine was too, as one might expect from a record-breaking “
Gearing up my homespun routine using the new method has lead to some noticeable improvements.
On a scale of one to ten, where ten is running around, arms in the air, my anxiety/gloom level was about four. Now it’s about three.
One thing missing from any self-made regime is the support and community. It is good to be part of an actual thing now.
As an outrider to Wim Hofers worldwide I will take heart from
It is great to know similar ideas and inspiration land and grow in separate places, and can come together and reinforce one another.
Cold water and breathing exercises, Hof or otherwise, are by no means a unique way to boost our bounce.
But what is perhaps special is their
The science which grows up around this type of practice will surely help explain and increase their effectiveness.
They may not actually stop us getting ill, as some claim they do, but they may well help us endure the symptoms. That would be good enough.
We should also be alert to potential downsides too. Being more resilient is great, but not everything. Sensitivity has a place too.
My goal is not to explore extremes, there are people better able than me for that, but I will gladly try to help harness the positives. ■