If one were to survey a cross-section of people arriving at Wim Hof’s methods, it would appear that a substantial number of such people approach Hof’s exercises and techniques intending to manage anxiety and depression, two conditions which are unfortunately quite common within the more affluent and developed world. Whether this is due to urban separation from our natural environments, overwork, sedentary lifestyles and so on, or instead because of excessive medicalisation of normal human emotions, more people in contemporary modern society identify with conditions like anxiety and depression than ever before.
Anecdotally, some tribes who still live amongst nature do not have words for ‘suicide’ in their language, contrasting sharply with the ‘modern malaise’ of the West and other built-up nations like Japan, where ‘death by overwork’ is widespread. These situations have given rise to myriad self-help techniques, many of which have faced criticism and have thus been dismissed as pseudoscience, and rightly so.
However, with Wim Hof’s methods, testimonies from ordinary people with conditions like anxiety, depression, and so on confer high praise on the 60-year old Dutch pioneer and what he teaches. However, his techniques are not a one-time ‘magic bullet’ but are instead something that should routinely be practised every day or almost every day.
Like yoga, pilates or meditation, Hof’s techniques require a consistently high level of upkeep. Alternatively, they have what is called ‘low stickiness’. As well as regulating mood disorders, similarly, glowing reports have been reported regarding the Wim Hof Method’s effectiveness in managing physical pain. The philosophies of pain and pleasure are complex and counter-intuitive even. Allegorical stories have many cautionary tales about the dangers of pleasure-seeking and the trappings of hedonism that can cause one to face even more suffering in the long run. The Wim Hof Method works the opposite way, forcing oneself to face and overcome just the right amount of pain and discomfort (and definitely no more than just the right amount!) to strengthen body and mind and to upregulate the ability to enjoy day-to-day living. Excessive and reckless hedonism can blunt the spirit, ultimately leading to listlessness and anhedonia, whilst overcoming challenges has physical and mental benefits. A standard example of this is regular exercise; without the optimal amount of healthy stress and resistance that training gives, our muscles and strength will atrophy, leading to health problems. The philosophy of exposing oneself to just the right amount of stress for the health benefits are called ‘hormesis, a term coined by the author Todd Becker. Other examples of this idea include barefoot running, cold showers, calorie restriction and weight training.
Wim Hof’s teachings enjoy a considerable following that consists of many thousands of people worldwide. If the movement continues to grow and be consistently practised by more and more people, then it has the potential to reduce the amount of involuntary suffering in the world, without the need to consume multiple drugs and medications with all of the sides
effects that come with them. Nevertheless, as with everything, the Wim Hof Method comes with its own set of risks to watch out for, such as hyperventilation, blackouts, hypoxia and hypothermia. Despite the loyal following that Hof has, it seems apparent that his methods are neglected compared to the more mainstream fields of health and medicine, probably due to the lacklustre track record of many ‘alternative’ therapies and lifestyle hacks that were eventually proven to be pseudoscientific and fraudulent.
For many years until now, an ever-worsening opioid crisis has crippled generations of people in chronic pain who need more opioids in increasing doses for the analgesic effects to keep Working.
Because of this, millions of people have become addicted because of the over-prescription of opioids by Doctors. Also, people experimenting with substances find themselves hooked on the euphoric effects of these opioid drugs, which are very effective at soothing anxiety, depression, and other mood disorders. Unfortunately, many people in both cases take to heroin when these prescription drugs are no longer available, or their Doctor suddenly withdraws the script, which, when done so immediately and without a tapering regimen, massively increases the risk of overdose (because of re-sensitisation and relapse) and then death, if not that, then dying from whatever dangerous substances street drugs are cut with.