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Wim Hof – What We Can Learn From His Philosophy On Health & Happiness

Updated: Oct 20, 2020

Wim Hof, also known as the Iceman, is a 60-year-old Dutchman who has spent the last 43 years challenging his body and mind in extreme conditions to deepen our understanding of human strength, health and happiness.

After 26 world records (mostly involving prolonged cold exposure), a climb up Mount Everest in nothing but shorts, and a breakthrough 2014 research study confirming Wim’s – and his trainees’ – ability to willfully influence the immune and sympathetic nervous systems, the scientific endorsements have continued to accumulate. Many hope these findings point towards a panacea for inflammatory diseases. Current and ongoing studies exploring Wim’s ability to influence brain mechanisms for control of sensory pain and fear may also pave the way for paradigm shifts in the way we think about treating mental disorders, including depression, anxiety, trauma, PTSD, and more. 

Here, we deep dive into his philosophies and the take-aways are nothing short of groundbreaking…


It started when I was 17. I was on a soul search and had been reading all kinds of philosophy books for years. Then one Sunday morning I found the answer within. It was below freezing in the Netherlands and nobody was around so I went in the river. The cold made me instantly understand from the inside. When you feel it, you feel it. It’s like falling in love, it requires no explanation. From that moment I went back to the cold water every day. It made me conscious of breathing deeply, which enabled me to withstand the cold for longer. This awakened me to a deeper connection and control within, and I became very conscious of it. Over the next 25 years, I did many challenges, attracting the scientific world and I showed that I could willfully influence the autonomic nervous system, endocrine and immune systems. I also trained 12 people within four days to do this and they showed no symptoms of illness after injections of endotoxins. By gaining this connection and control within, we are showing that our potential is far greater than we thought. Now we are doing studies to reveal the truth behind fear, which is just chemistry not properly worked out in our brain. 


The word ‘yoga’ comes from the verb ‘Yug’, which means to connect. Pantajali, the father of yoga, said that if you know the meaning of this phrase then all the poses and movements don’t matter because yoga is the silencing of the modifications of our brain. Our being is disturbed by our thoughts. In modern society, we do not learn how to neurologically connect. The autonomic nervous system is related to our subconscious, which is our dream state of being. We need to learn how to neurologically connect to make the subconscious, conscious, to let us use the whole of our brain rather than just the 16% we have become accustomed to using. Our last study in Michigan is showing that by using the mind, we can deal with stress in any shape, mental or physical. With this control, you have all the tools to turn your subconscious dream state into reality. 


You are a divine human being and your mind really is unlimited. Once you are healed to enter into 100% of yourself, you will grow into your potential. Then you will leave [your current] conditioning and your confined narrow consciousness, to expand and get control over the subconscious. Then you will be able to deal with disease and mental illnesses so much better. 


Over the past 40 years, we have done many studies, and we are continuing to do more, but there is no money to be gained from natural methods, therefore, we are not as fast as the pharmaceutical, food and wellness industries. Science is as slow as a turtle but we are awakening people through podcasts and social media, which go directly to the people and are changing the paradigm faster than the science. We need to get this to the children in schools as well – the children need to learn how to neurologically connect within and maintain a balance to never become unhappy or depressed, but always strong, happy and healthy. We [currently] don’t challenge our children, our bodies and mind in nature any more. Nature wants us to challenge both our bodies and minds to learn how to deal with fear, by exercising agility and dexterity in trees for example, and the mud and the cold. When I was unknown and had no money I did tree climbing parties for kids birthdays. Children like to challenge themselves and go through fear. They want to explore neurological pathways because it’s natural. After these climbing parties, the children were silent and serene, and the parents had never seen their children like this.


Our breathing has the ability to enlighten and activate any physiological mechanism in conscious control. Many people are really shallow breathers, but we are showing with science that through deep conscious breathing we can influence [our minds and bodies] at the cellular level. Once you are able to consciously change the chemistry within the brain is equipped to rule over the body.



What I am talking about has nothing to do with thinking. It has to do with your neurological investments, called beliefs. Do you believe you are able to reveal the best of yourself, to realise the deepest of yourself and develop it? Or are you believing you have to just play a part of a society, which is unequal and not serving humanity and nature? Learn to be in control, and control is letting go, not holding on. Be silent and listen to your inner-voice saying ‘let’s do this because it makes you feel happy’. It’s about feeling, not thinking. But we have 25% more blood flow to our thinking brain than the rest of our brain because we think too much.


Our vascular system – if laid out – is two and a half times across the world. Breathing is a way to open and close the millions of little vessels and capillaries of the vascular system. I can feel whenever I am lacking oxygen in the depth of my cells. Many people are not supplying their blood with sufficient oxygen, which is not helping the body be alkaline, which is what helps the body be the right vessel for our electricity network, the nervous system. When the nervous system works well with the right chemistry, it is able to connect with our neurotransmitters, which is our will, our consciousness. Breathing lets us be the alchemists of our own chemistry.  In a recent study [on breathing] there was compelling evidence showing control over mood regulation. If we don’t breathe well, not only do we create oxidative stress and become sick, but also, in every moment we have a mood, and the breath can help us become the masters of our mood and emotion. 

If you want to learn more about the mental and physical health benefits related to open water swimming and cold exposure, feel free to join our ICEWIM Facebook group.

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