How The Wim Hof Method Can Help Anxiety & Depression

how does the wim hof method help anxiety

The Wim Hof Technique, brainchild of the eponymous Iceman who has made a career as a health guru through his ability to withstand sub-zero temperatures, is largely commended for the physical benefits that it provides – most notably the ability to reduce body fat and improve the performance of the human immune system.

What does not attract quite as much attention, however, is the positive impact that this curious approach can have on our mental health.

Wim Hof Technique = Trauma Releasing Exercise

The Wim Hof Technique (check out this post for a detailed look at the techniques and how to do it) is a Trauma Releasing Exercise in all but name.

TREs are an increasingly popular method to cope with generalized anxiety and clinical depression, conditions that leave the brain and body in a constant state of fight or flight tension.

Often revolving around allowing the body to shake or tremor, the idea is that any concerns are leaving our physical selves through this vigorous physical activity.

Both elements of the Wim Hof Technique – the forced hyperventilation and cold condition exposure – are designed to force the body into reacting faster to these kind of stresses, and thus with a heightened awareness to stress and anxiety, you'll find it becomes less and less a noticeable part of your everyday life.

You will feel stronger, sleep better, and feel more energized – all things that many of us take for granted, but others find that anxiety and depression have robbed them of.

Of course everybody is different, and if the Wim Hof Technique is to work for your unique brain chemistry and circumstances, you may have to be prepared for things to seem as though they are getting a little worse before they get better.

When you initially embark upon the Wim Hof Technique you will be altering the chemistry of your body, and as a result it may very well go into shock.

This could lead to an outpouring of emotion that you were not prepared for, but treat this in a similar method to physical pain – while that needs to leave the body in order to begin the process of healing, so too does psychological and mental anguish.

This technique is all about giving yourself a new start, and you can't commence a new chapter in your life without first concluding the previous one.

Wim Hof himself is no stranger to depression, having battled the condition following the passing of his first wife, and that was when he first discovered his technique and began cold weather training.

Wim Hof is no stranger to depression having battled the condition following the death of his wife.

In many respects, his intention is to help followers of his teachings to help themselves – to discover their own so-called 'inner fire'.

Meditation is often referred to as one of the key components of the technique, as well as a frequent recommendation from healthcare professionals for remedying anxiety and depression (the art of so-called mindfulness), and by adding breathing exercises and cold weather training to the mix we have the makings of a very potent weapon in the battle against mental illness.

However, it should be stressed once more that there are no guarantees in the case of such a complex condition. Medical professionals have long been confounded as to what causes anxiety and depression and how best to treat these illnesses.

While science can back up the physical health claims of the Wim Hof Technique, it's much trickier to produce substantiation of the mental impact.

Training our minds and bodies to adapt to physical stress, however, can only be a good thing, and anecdotal evidence certainly suggests that many have benefited from this unique approach to mental health.

If you would like to give it a try - why not check out my article that gives specific details of the techniques and how you can get started today.

2 thoughts on “How The Wim Hof Method Can Help Anxiety & Depression

  1. Hi Kelly,
    Thanks for the awesome article. I appreciate you sharing the ups and downs of Wim’s incredible method. I suffer from Generalized Anxiety Disorder and OCD, and could not help notice that you mentioned ‘things (i.e. anxiety) could get worse before they get better. I can understand this one. I too have notice my anxiety becoming more acute in the initial stages, through both the breathing and exercise together and seperately. Do you by chance know, whether through personal experience, or perhaps someone else, who has tried the Wim Hof method, and who also has/had anxiety, which worsened before becoming better while practicing the WHM? Just curious how long it took for others or yourself, to notice or experience more calm and less anxiety throughout the rest of your day (while practicing the WHM)? Thanks so much in advance. Sean

    • Hi Sean,

      Thanks for your comment!

      I definitely experienced instant relief by doing the method. I felt a calming effect from the first time I tried. However, I think repetition has been the important aspect of using this method. particularly with anxiety and stress.

      I don’t suffer from serious anxiety though – however my Husband does and it is through repetition that he has been able to keep things in check. It seems that it is very easy to get out of the habit of doing the techniques because you gain a false sense that you feel fine – having ingrained a calm practice – but it can be very easy to undo the work you have done by getting out of the habit. That is the experience my Husband has found – it very much is a way of coping with the condition as opposed to completely eradicating it for him – that is really a tall order for how his anxiety has come about and how long he has been dealing with it (since he was a very very young). He never experienced it getting worse before it got better though – but that could be because he has already spoken about and has awareness of some of the root causes of his issues and has support.

      So I would say it really depends on how strong your anxiety issues are and where your anxiety comes from.

      Another thing to note is that the breathing technique is forced and does create energy – it is designed to force the body to react faster to stress – if you already have a heightened level of anxiety then it doesn’t come as a surprise that you would feel more anxious as a result.

      You could experiment with the time of day you do them and in times when you feel less anxious?

      Wishing you luck with the technique and your anxiety. Hopefully this reply was helpful!


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