In issues 1-3, we reviewed four core elements of the Positive psychology
paradigm, Happiness, Mindfulness, Gratitude, and Self-care. In this issue,
we will focus on the other two - Self-compassion and Life Purpose.
Just like the rest, they are fundamentally important for your health,
well-being, and quality of life.
Self-compassion, or positive self-talk, has been researched for over fifteen years
by Dr. Kristin Neff and her colleagues at the University of Austin, Texas and other
labs. It is a powerful tool for triggering the relaxation response of the body and
putting it into rest, digest, and repair mode. Self-compassion practices are easy
to learn and implement and take only a few minutes of your day.
Life Purpose, or having a strong sense of meaning, has also been extensively
researched, primarily at George Mason University. Harvard Medical School
acknowledged life purpose as one of the main predictors of physical health,
emotional well-being, and longevity. Researchers have provided short,
evidence-based exercises for developing, as well as for maintaining, a strong
sense of purpose.
In addition, this issue reviews the benefits of Clove Bud oil, one of the most powerful anti-oxidants (400 times higher ORAC value than berries), as well as TENS/EMS units, popular medical devices for pain management and muscle relaxation.
1. Read the articles on Self-compassion and Life Purpose on the main page.
2. Open the Mind-Body Exercises module in the Members area and you will find a variety of Self-compassion and Life Purpose practices that you can try (scroll down). You can choose just one or two that fit your needs best.
3. Read the sections (pp. 29-35) on Self-compassion and Life Purpose in the Positive Psychology Harvard Medical School Special Health Report (emailed).
4. Read the article on Clove bud oil below.
5. Read the article on TENS/EMS units below.
Clove Bud Oil
Clove or Laung is a store house of health benefits. Apart from adding flavor and aroma to various dishes, people use its oil, leaves, stems and dried buds for various medicinal and health purposes. Clove oil is one of the richest sources of antioxidants. It is also used as a household antiseptic and pain reliever especially for toothaches and stomach pain. Those who have troubled sleep can apply some warm clove oil along with sesame oil on the forehead to feel calm and relaxed.
Clove oil is known for its antiseptic, antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral properties. Eugenol, the main constituent of clove oil exhibits broad antimicrobial activities against various bacteria and fungi. Cloves are well known also for their antiemetic (relieves nausea and vomiting) and carminative properties.
I've been using the organic Clove bud essential oil by Plant Therapy and really like it. I mix it with my facial creams for anti-aging effects. In addition, I apply it directly when my skin breaks out or mixed with coconut or olive oil when I get a fungal/yeast infection. I also use it with my aromatherapy diffuser. I researched Plant Therapy and they seem to be the best option in terms of quality-price ratio.
14 amazing benefits of clove
Good for your teeth. Clove oil has strong germicidal properties and fights dental pain, toothaches, sore gums and mouth ulcers very effectively. Just add four drops of clove oil in a glass of lukewarm water and gargle at least twice a day for effective results.
Antibacterial and antifungal – studies show that clove oil dispersed in a concentrated solution has a marked germicidal effect against various bacteria and Candida albicans (including Staphylococcus aureus, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Clostridium perfringens, and Escherichia coli).
Stronger immunity. Clove oil may be looked upon as a champion of all known antioxidants and it can work wonders in boosting your immunity. The ORAC score, of clove is over 10 million. A drop of it is 400 times more powerful as an anti-oxidant than wolf berries or blueberries. The antioxidant property present in the oil acts as a scavenger against the free radicals that can cause various diseases like cancer and heart ailments.
Fights infections. Blessed with a multitude of antiseptic properties, clove oil can be used to treat cuts, wounds, fungal infections, insect bites and even stings. However, direct application of clove oil may prove harmful. If the wound is too sore, it is advisable to dilute clove oil by adding almond or coconut oil. These carrier oils will prevent your sensitive skin from burns that can be caused by direct application of clove oil.
Fights sore throat, cough and cold. For its high anti-inflammatory properties, clove oil can come handy during times of sore throat, cough, cold and sinusitis. Consuming the excellent expectorant clove oil can clear the nasal passage and gives you respite from respiratory problems.
Eases headaches. Suffering from chronic headache? Mix four drops of clove oil with salt and apply it on your forehead for instant relief. The flavonoids in clove oil have anti-inflammatory agents that will help ease the inflammation and also have a cooling effect. Clove oil can be used to reduce as an excellent pain reliever for muscle pain and joints.
Good for your skin. Clove oil is often found in soaps, lotions and even in perfumes. Its antibacterial properties make it effective in curing acne, reducing swelling and killing infectious bacteria at the same time. Just mix 2 to 3 drops of pure clove oil with your skin cream and apply gently. Clove oil can help fight signs of anti-ageing too, just dab few drops on clove oil on to a piece of cotton and apply it on to your face at least twice a day. You would see a marked change as far as wrinkles, and sagging skin is concerned. Clove oil’s stimulating properties exfoliates dead skin, and increases blood flow which helps revive the youthfulness of your skin.
For great hair. Applying clove oil on your scalp boosts blood circulation which reduces hair fall and also promotes hair growth. It also lends the much needed shine to dry and dull hair. A small amount of clove oil mixed with olive oil can also work as a great conditioner. For best results, apply the mix on damp hair, and wrap a warm towel around it. Let it stay for twenty minutes and rinse with cold water.
Ear-aches. Clove oil is an effective remedy for nasty ear-aches. Take a warm mixture of 2 teaspoons of sesame oil and 3-4 drops of pure clove oil and slowly apply this mixture inside your ears. Leave it for sometime. The mixture will ease the pain and you will feel relaxed.
Stress and anxiety. Due to its stimulating properties, clove oil helps to reduce fatigue, mental exhaustion, anxiety and stress.
Detox. Clove oil can act as a blood purifier and also boost blood circulation. It helps eliminate toxins from the blood. Aroma extracts can reduce toxin levels in your blood and rouse the antioxidant levels in the body.
Good for diabetics. Helps in maintaining good insulin levels.
Insect repellent. Apply a few drops of clove oil around the room and the sleeping area to keep the mosquitoes away.
Gastric issues. The eugenol in clove oil works well for treating gastric problems like indigestion and flatulence. It can also come in handy for treating hiccups and motion sickness.
This is an amazing research-based article written by doctors. It covers all you need to know in a short format. I reviewed the scientific literature and the claims are backed.
TENS stands for transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation.
EMS stands for electrical muscle stimulation. Although similar,
the two technologies utilize different electrical frequencies with TENS
being used for pain management and EMS for muscle relaxation/
stimulation. Most units nowadays combine the two.
A TENS/EMS unit is a portable battery-operated device that that can be used conveniently on the go, especially while driving/flying, in the office, and even while walking around. It is great for people suffering from chronic pain (sciatica, arthritis, tendinitis, joint pain, headaches/migraines, plantar fasciitis, tennis elbow, herniated disc) or those who get stiff on a regular basis due to the nature of their work (desk jobs, driving, nursing patients, job-related stress).
TENS/EMS units work by delivering small electrical impulses through electrodes that have adhesive pads to attach them to the skin. These electrical impulses flood the nervous system, reducing its ability to transmit pain signals to the spinal cord and brain. The same electrical impulses also stimulate the body to produce natural pain relievers called endorphins. In addition, the impulses contract the muscles to break down muscle knots, alleviate cramps and muscle spasms, and relieve muscle tension cause by stress or sitting/standing too long.
A TENS/EMS unit has controls that allow people to administer an appropriate level of pain/muscle relief. People can achieve this by altering the intensity, frequency, and duration of the electrical current or by selecting among pre-set modes (quality models have between 12 and 24 modes).
TENS/EMS units have been used since the early 70s and are usually prescribes after surgery (for recovery) and car accidents (for pain management). Chiropractors and physical therapists use them extensively and osteopaths recommend them as a natural alternative to painkillers.
A 1997 study of EMS specifically for treating muscle knots found positive results. Several studies found TENS to significantly reduce acute chronic pain. However, research findings are mixed due to the multiple frequencies and modes of use, with several studies revealing no significant effects. Anecdotally, many healthcare professionals have reported that it seems to help some people, although how well it works depends on the individual and the condition being treated. It seems that the technology works well for most but not for everyone, depending on individual differences such as tolerance for electricity, body type, and duration/intensity of use. The positioning of electrodes is another important determinant of effects.
You can find a detailed explanation of the benefits and a systematic review of the existing research here: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4186747/
I've been using several models for more than 15 years and the technology works really well for me. I always keep my unit in my pocket or backpack and put it on during long drives/flights which is quite often. As someone who works out with heavy weights, I've had multiple injuries such as pulled muscles, pinched nerves, disjointed discs, soreness and muscle pain. My experience is that the TENS/EMS unit reduces pain and improves recovery. In addition, it relaxes my muscles during stressful periods when my neck and shoulders get extremely stiff. Finally, it helps me relax my feet before bedtime and get rid of the restless legs twitching that frequently wakes me up.
I first started my business selling only TENS/EMS units. With thousands of units sold, I've had many customers reaching back to thank me because the technology helped them get rid of severe chronic pain, most commonly sciatica and knee issues.
BENEFITS AND EASE OF USE
TENS/EMS is a noninvasive method for relieving pain and muscle tension. People who experience pain relief from TENS may be able to reduce their intake of pain medications, some of which can be addictive or cause adverse side effects.
TENS/EMS units are also convenient because they are small, portable, and relatively discrete. People can carry a TENS unit in their pocket or clip it onto a belt to ensure that they have immediate access to pain relief throughout the day.
POSSIBLE SIDE EFFECTS
TENS units have been extensively researched and are generally safe. However, some people may dislike the sensation and find it uncomfortable. Those with very sensitive skin or allergy to the adhesive pads may experience redness.
One medical report states: "Although there is a tiny risk of mild shock from faulty devices, consumer TENS/EMS units are just too weak to be dangerous."
AVOID TENS/EMS IF: You are pregnant, have cancer, have a pacemaker, have epilepsy or a heart condition.
POSITIONING OF PADS
Make sure the machine is switched off before you attach the pads to your skin. Position the pads either side of the painful area, at least 2.5cm (1 inch) apart.
Never place the pads over:
the front or sides of your neck
your chest and upper back at the same time
irritated, infected or broken skin
TENS may be more effective if people place the electrodes on
acupuncture points (see pic on the right).
Acupuncture is a practice that uses needles to stimulate the nerves beneath the skin at specific locations known as acupuncture points. Experts believe that this assists the body in producing endorphins.
One study found some evidence that people who receive TENS through acupuncture points may experience a reduction in pain.
DURATION OF EFFECTS
The duration of pain relief after using a TENS/EMS unit can vary. Some people report that their pain returns as soon as they switch off the device. Others continue to experience an adequate level of pain relief for up to 24 hours.
A 2012 review suggests that the duration of pain relief increases after repeated TENS treatments. However, this repetition can also increase the likelihood of a person building up a tolerance to the treatment.
CHOICE OF BRAND
You can purchase a low-cost TENS/EMS unit ($40-50) from CVS or Amazon but the quality varies dramatically. The battery makes a huge difference with 9-volt batteries being too weak to deliver the desired effect. Additionally, they have to be replaced frequently. Lithium battery units are the best. Consider the quality of the lithium battery as well. The charge should be 20+ hours and the life expectancy 5+ years.
After extensive research of the brands on the market, I chose to work with Hidow International, an American company based in Saint Louis that provides excellent quality and customer service. The difference between their units and most other brands is like the one between a dial phone and a smart phone.
Generally, cheap TENS/EMS units (under $100) either break a lot or do not provide
the required quality of electrical current to achieve the desired effects. Many of them
are not FDA cleared and do not provide the proper electrical frequency that has been
tested to produce positive effects. Basically, you get what you pay for.
Hidow International has been on the market close to 20 years and sponsor the LA Kings
hockey team. Their units are FDA cleared class 2 medical devices covered by HSA/FSA.
I can still get their products at a reduced price and offer the AcuXPD-S model (to me the best
bang for your buck) to clients for $150 instead of $400, including a lifetime warranty.
You can compare with Amazon here.
Welcome to Issue 5, where we will continue exploring groundbreaking findings from medical research and ways to dramatically improve our health and well-being. Start with the Relaxation Response module on the main page. This section will teach you about the principle underlying most practices that we recommend. For example, you can activate the relaxation response via mindfulness, self-compassion, gratitude, and life purpose exercises.
Here you will also learn how to do it by savoring pleasure, Harvard's latest research on well-being. Read the article below and use you self-care products to create pleasurable moment in your daily life. The last section reviews the Wim Hof method, an evidence-based system for boosting you health, immunity, and resilience. You will receive additional materials via email. I strongly recommend giving it a try. My personal experience using the method for close to three years shows amazing results. ENJOY!
Savoring pleasure means consciously enjoying a pleasant experience as it unfolds. This perspective comes from the hedonic approach to happiness which defines well-being in terms of pleasure attainment and avoidance of pain. Experiencing pleasure and positive emotion can help you fight stress in a high-pressure environment. This approach is particularly effective when combined with mind-body practices for attaining long-term happiness. For example, mindful focus on pleasant experiences with an emphasis on gratitude and self-compassion can simultaneously bring forth the benefits associated with each of these practices.
PLEASURE COMES FROM FULL ENGAGEMENT
Positive psychology researchers Martin Seligman, Ph.D. and Christopher Peterson, Ph.D. emphasize the importance of experiencing pleasurable emotions as a fundamental part of well-being. Their model of happiness is build on a balance of feeling good and doing good.
This point is especially important for medical professionals who often neglect their own needs and forget that in order to give yourself to others, you have to make sure that you have enough to give.
Psychologists have long established a positive relationship between engagement and pleasure. In the words of Dr. Seligman, “Where pleasure matters is if you have both engagement and you have meaning, then pleasure’s the whipped cream and the cherry.
DOING vs. BEING
Philosopher Soren Kierkegaard famously said, "Most men pursue pleasure with such breathless haste that they hurry past it." On the other end are constantly busy people who neglect their own basic needs. He has a quote about them too:
''The most ludicrous of all ludicrous things, it seems to me, is to be busy in the world, to be a man who is brisk at his meals and brisk at his work[…] What, after all, do these busy bustlers achieve? Are they not just like that woman who, in a flurry because the house was on fire, rescued the fire tongs? What more, after all, do they salvage from life’s huge conflagration?''
Kierkegaard said these word almost two centuries ago, but they are especially true in our modern age where life is fast and opportunity cost high. Many of us have lost the capacity to appreciate simple pleasures without thinking about daily stressors or better alternatives. We are frustrated, fragmented, running in a hamster wheel that never stops. To end this vicious cycle, we need to understand the alternative, or the difference between "doing" and "being".
There is the “doing mode,” which is what we do when we’re trying to get out of the gap between how life is and how we want it to be. But there is another mode, and that is the “being mode.” In the being mode, you can more easily control where you put your attention. Instead of frantically striving to change things, you can choose to do little things that bring you pleasure, and things that help you experience positive emotions.
Psychologist Barbara Fredrickson has extensively researched the effects of the being mode on stress and has come up with a model of how positive affect interacts with resilience, known as the "broaden and build" theory of positive psychology. Fredrickson and others have found that when we give ourselves a lift in mood, this can expand (or broaden) our perspective so that we notice more possibilities in our lives, and this enables us to more easily take advantage of (to build upon) these resources. These resources include the following:
Physical Resources: Energy, stamina, fitness, health, and overall wellness. For example, if you’re in a good mood, you may have more motivation to go to the gym.
Psychological Resources: This includes the ability to choose more optimistic perspectives, pull yourself out of rumination, or withstand hectic schedules without experiencing burnout. If you have more positive affect, for example, you might be less prone to dwelling on the negative and may focus on possibilities in your life.
Pleasure is more than it seems to be
Dr. Fredrickson is a strong proponent of using pleasure for improving our well-being. She claims that feelings of pleasure and joy can work as an "upward spiral" of positivity where positive affect begets more resilience toward stress and more positive affect. This is why it really helps to cultivate positive moods and pleasure in life; it's not just something that will lead to some good feelings in the moment, but it can be a path to less stress and a happier life in general.
Savoring is the idea that we should “stop and smell the roses.” It means placing your attention on pleasure as it happens, consciously enjoying the experience as it unfolds. Most people tend to experience pleasure in special moments, such as a wedding day or a vacation. Small daily pleasures, on the other hand, can slip by without much notice unless they vanish or seem threatened. There's nothing like a medical scare to spur appreciation of good health, or a series of cloudy days to have you appreciating the sun when it re-emerges.
Fred Bryant of Loyola University and the late Joseph Veroff of the University of Michigan were pioneers in the scientific study of savoring. Their work, described in the textbook Savoring: A New Model of Positive Experience in 2006, is used by psychologists who continue to investigate how you can become happier by learning to savor the present moment. These researchers have found that appreciating the treasures in life, big and small, helps build happiness. Whether or not savoring pleasure is already one of your paths to happiness, you can enhance your capacity to recognize and enjoy the pleasures in your day.
In our busy day-to-day lifestyles, it’s easy to rush from one event to the next, never really taking a moment to truly enjoy what we’re doing. But happiness isn’t only about having positive experiences; it’s also about being able to notice them, to enjoy them, to prolong them. Make the decision to learn to conscientiously enjoy these moments for as long as possible.
4 TYPES OF SAVORING
The different types of savoring are as varied as our emotions, but here are some of the most common:
Luxuriating (positive emotion involved: pleasure). When we think of savoring, we often think of luxuriating: easing into a warm hot tub and feeling our muscles relax, taking that first bite of a flaky, buttery croissant.
Marveling (awe). Some experiences inspire savoring by their very nature. A mountain range that goes on for miles, the quiet sacredness of an ancient cathedral, a Van Gogh-like sunset: these wonders urge us to stop and take notice.
Basking (pride). When we enjoy the warm glow of praise or reflect happily on past achievements, we are basking. We only reach a particular goal once, but we can extend the gratifying feeling of accomplishment with basking.
Thanksgiving (gratitude). No, not the holiday – in a state of thanksgiving, we’re overwhelmed with gratitude and express it outwardly. It can happen when receiving a generous gift, like a loan given in a time of need, or it can come simply from reflecting on all the good in our life.
Researchers explain that different types of savoring regulate other important positive experiences:
Marveling regulates awe.
Thanksgiving regulates gratitude.
Basking regulates pride.
Luxuriating regulates physical pleasure
Improvements in our overall health and well-being. When we attend to positive feelings and emotions, our bodies are flooded with “feel-good” neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin that reduce stress and calm our nervous systems. Prolonged stress underlies many major health conditions we experience in our society today.
Assists us in making positive life choices. When we have good working memory of what was pleasurable to us or worked out well in the past, these savored memories help to inform us when making decisions or setting goals for the future.
Sends us on an upward spiral of happiness. Savoring positive emotions propels us on a trajectory of experiencing more positive emotions, just as ruminating on the negative would lead us down the path of thinking more negatively.
Experience lives of gratitude and appreciation. Those who learn to savor special moments in life often report having a greater appreciation for the things and people they have in their lives.
Develop a sense of self-efficacy. Savoring the moments when we’ve accomplished something or have performed well, can aid us in building our confidence.
HOW TO DO IT
Share your positive feelings. Research in this area has indicated that people who share their feelings with friends have higher levels over overall happiness than those who do not share.
Take mental photographs. Be intentional about cognitively “capturing” moments that are special to you that you would like to be able to enjoy again.
Sharpen your sensory perceptions. Block out distractions so you can concentrate on the savoring (like turning off the TV or computer while you’re eating, for example).
Be mindful. It takes practice to train our minds to just be present. In order to fully experience the benefits of savoring, we must try to do what we can to quiet the chatter in our minds.
Practice gratitude. Make the decision to acknowledge what you are thankful for daily.
Stunt negative thought patterns. Become aware of when you’re headed down a negative thinking path and make the exerted effort to replace that thinking with positive thoughts and experiences.
We at The Happy Doctor Project provides exercises that turn savoring of pleasure into a daily skill for increased mindfulness and well-being. Our practices fit into an easy to follow regimen specifically designed for busy medical professionals.
This approach is unique because it combines effective mind-body practices with pleasurable activities such as massage, aroma therapy, and facials. Thus, the useful and the pleasant become mutually reinforcing and quickly establish healthy habits that reduce stress and promote well-being. Our programs are beneficial not only to people suffering from burnout and compassion fatigue but to anyone who wants to improve their emotional state, find more meaning in life, and fulfill their potential.
EXERCISE 1: Use your skin care products with Pleasure
- Apply cream slowly and with pleasure.
- Focus on the sensation of the cream on your skin.
- Notice its aroma. Enjoy it mindfully.
- Notice color and texture of cream. Enjoy its smoothness and richness.
- When using the Perfectio LED unit, focus on the warmth and softness of its touch to your skin.
- Relax and think with gratitude about the high quality luxurious product that you're using. You deserve it.
- Remind yourself of your mission to save lives and serve others. Each pleasant sensation you experience heals your stress and charges you with energy to continue pursuing your life purpose.
EXERCISE 2: Be Kind to Yourself
- Apply cream slowly and with kindness to yourself.
- Remind yourself that you do your best to help others and that you have a higher calling.
- Associate each pleasant sensation with the notion that you are taking care of yourself. Focusing on self-care will naturally make you feel good.
- Apply a facial mask and focus on the pleasant sensation on your face. This is your special time when you get to enjoy life 100%.
- When using your Perfectio LED unit, remind yourself that this is a luxury product that people love and enjoy, although very few can afford. This is your special gift to yourself. Savor it with presence and gratitude. Say to yourself the following mantra, "I'm caring for myself and I feel good about it."
EXERCISE 3: Savoring physical sensations
A practical example of how to savor a piece of chocolate cake:
- Enjoy the anticipatory excitement before this coveted piece of chocolate cake arrives.
- Once the cake arrives, take time to smell it and take in its aroma and temperature the anticipatory excitement before this coveted piece of chocolate cake arrives.
- Cultivate a sense of thankfulness that you are able to have this piece of cake.
- While eating the cake, taking small, slow, mindful bites, letting the cake roll over your palate, noticing the complexity of its tastes and textures.
- After you’ve finished the cake, notice how you feel having eaten it. Challenge yourself to recall the taste and texture sensations you just experienced. Allow yourself to enjoy the cake-eating experience all over again in your mind.
You can get some additional tips from this short article in Psychology Today:
Wim Hof Method
Wim Hof is a Dutch guy called the Iceman. He developed a system that includes breathing exercises, frequent cold exposure (cold showers, ice baths), stretching, and mindfulness. He is world-record holder in withstanding extreme cold exposure under several disciplines, such as the fastest half-marathon on snow and ice while barefoot, and the longest duration while fully immersed in crushed ice (1 hour and 50 minutes). He claims to achieve these records through a special meditation and breathing technique, which is based on g-Tummo meditation, and that he is capable to regulate his own autonomic nervous system. A recent case study demonstrated that he could indeed control the autonomic stress response during endotoxemia by using this technique. Multiple scientific studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of the method.
Watch this TED Talk as introduction: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L9Cgaa8U4eY
I’ve been practicing the Wim Hof Method for three years and haven’t been sick a single day. My energy went up and I quickly started to enjoy my daily cold showers despite the initial discomfort. The whole practice makes me feel kind of like Superman 😊
The Wim Hof Method (WHM) – through conscious breathing techniques, cold exposure, mindset training, and yoga movements – is an evidence-based program that offers multiple benefits. The method can be performed in a short period and at nearly no cost.
The method is a natural way to:
• Improve our mental well-being
• Boost and harmonize our immune system. Improve immune function and modulate the immune response
• Increase pain tolerance
• Improve sleep quality and decrease insomnia
• Train our blood vessels and cardiovascular system
• Optimize our breathing system
• Alleviate symptoms of depression, fatigue, and chronic pain
• Speed up the recovery process
• Control our nervous state
• Build our stress resilience
• Lower chronic inflammation through the reduction of pro-inflammatory cytokines (by training the nervous and circulatory systems)
• Regulate blood pressure and heart rate by switching between stress and relaxation, between “fight or flight” and “rest, digest, and repair”
• Overcome our fear of discomfort
• Optimize our thermoregulation system
• Increase our metabolism (the chemical processes that occur within our body)
• Relieve symptoms of autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, sclerosis, Parkinson’s, asthma, sarcoidosis, and vasculitis.
Optimal performance and get strong
The method allows us to:
• Gain more energy in everyday life as well as while performing and training
• Fast recovery from physical exertion
• Heighten bodily awareness
• Increase willpower
Reconnect and be happy
The method allows us to:
• Take a journey inside ourselves
• Discover our true nature regardless of our beliefs
• Feel reconnected with nature and with ourselves
• Improve focus and creativity
• Reduce stress and anxiety
• Enhance our mood and feel good
• Boost confidence
• Strengthen decision making, memory & learning
• Increase self-awareness
• Experience period of complete bliss, gratitude, and love
WHM has a deep impact on our body and mind, the ideal training ground for learning to deal with discomfort, and increase our resilience while keeping us Happy, Strong & Healthy.
According to a 2014 study, people who did the WHM had cortisol levels that normalized more quickly after activating the stress response. This has tremendous benefits fighting chronic stress and chronic inflammation, the two scourges of contemporary life.
Several studies have demonstrated that the method can be easily learned and the positive effects are available to everyone. Here are the results of an independent survey on the method, performed by James J. Allen in 2018 in a population of 241 individuals:
Around 41% of respondents indicated that they were suffering from specific complaints or conditions when they began practicing the method. Health consciousness and curiosity were the most common motivations for experiencing the method.
Out of those who indicated that they were suffering from specific complaints or conditions when they began the method, around 84% reported improvements. Around 15% indicated that these conditions stayed the same. No side effects were reported. 98% of respondents reported experiencing physical and psychological changes that they attribute to their practice. Nearly all of the respondents (98,3%) continued to practice after initiation. 54,4% practice the method daily, and 28,7% do so a few times a week.
In another study, researchers concluded that through practicing WHM learned in a short-term training program, the sympathetic nervous system and immune system can be voluntarily influenced. Healthy volunteers practicing the techniques exhibited profound increases in the release of epinephrine, which in turn led to increased production of anti-inflammatory mediators and subsequent dampening of the proinflammatory cytokine response elicited by intravenous administration of bacterial endotoxin.
THE CORE ELEMENTS - BREATHING
The normal breathing cycle is made of successive breath-in and breath-out phases. Thankfully, our body does this automatically, without having to think about it. A typical adult takes about 15 breaths every minute, which is about 20K breaths per day at rest, but a person will take 40 to 50 breaths per minute during periods of intense exercise.
You can count how often you breathe in 60 seconds, and you will then know your current respiratory rate. If you breathe more than ten times a minute, then your body is ready for action, but your respiratory rate is not compatible with sitting quietly. If you are sitting on a chair and breathe 18 times a minute – that’s a similar rate to running through a park. If a rapid respiratory rate becomes normal for a person, then this will lead to the development of health problems in the long run. A good breathing pattern is vital to have a healthy nervous system.
Through breathing, you can influence your autonomic nervous system and mood.
Autonomic Nervous System
Our autonomic nervous system regulates our body temperature, heart rate, blood pressure, respiration and the opening and closing of the blood vessels. It comprises of two control systems diametrically different functions: the sympathetic nervous system and the parasympathetic nervous system.
The sympathetic nervous system (the accelerator pedal of the human body) is the system that gets us mobilized and is responsible for the “fight-or-flight” response. The parasympathetic nervous system (the brake pedal of our body) is the system that is responsible for the stimulation of “rest, digest, and repair” when the body is at rest. The breath is the control device over your autonomic nervous system. Slow, deep breaths activates the parasympathetic system (“rest, digest, and repair” response), while fast breathing activates the sympathetic nervous system (“fight or flight” response). A healthy breathing pattern consists of deep breaths to the belly. Some people breathe paradoxically, meaning they breathe in, their chest expands and belly goes in. This way, you will breathe in shorter bursts and constantly activate the fight or flight response. This, in turn, influences your state of mind and physiology, and not in a positive way.
THE WHM BASIC BREATHING TECHNIQUE
Wim Hof has developed a special breathing technique that keep the body in optimal condition and with complete control in the most extreme conditions. The breathing technique is, first and foremost, premised on inhaling deeply (nose) and exhaling without any use of force (mouth).
With the breathing technique, we bring the body between extremes. We are training the body to breathe more optimally and to become more energy efficient. We are resetting the breathing and hormonal systems which are too often deregulated by the way we live. We are energizing and strengthening the body.
We are training the cardiovascular systems, the lungs, all the tissues and muscles around the lungs, the diaphragm, the blood circulation, and the nervous system. The breathing technique also helps to get the body in a state required to gain access to the autonomic nervous system and handle the cold better. We do all this by pushing the body between two extremes, hyperventilation and retention (hypoxia).
Research shows that the Wim Hof breathing technique can lead to:
increased red blood cells count
increased lung capacity
improved metabolic efficiency over the long term
The short-term period of hypoxia is a positive stressor. It signals the body to react and strengthen and to better deal with stress in the long run.
We have been taught and warned all our life to stay away from the cold or to isolate ourselves from it. However, recently, scholars have provided evidence that habitual cold exposure in moderation has powerful benefits to our overall health and happiness, including improvements of the immune system, circulation, emotional state, skin conditions, and energy.
Furthermore, cold exposure creates a moment of self-awareness, in which we are fully present and attuned to all our sensations. It also affects our focus, mood, self-confidence, and resilience.
Cold bathing is a common custom in many parts of the world. Ever since the introduction of civilized bathing, humans have experimented with water temperature variation to expose the body to extreme conditions. In ancient times, Roman bathing was based around the practice of moving through a series of heated rooms culminating in a cold plunge at the end. In modern times, the traditional ritual
of the frigidarium has been kept in most saunas and spas around the world.
Cold-water immersion stimulates the blood flow. When we immerse
our body in cold water, the blood rushes to surround our vital organs.
Our heart is forced to pump more efficiently, pushing blood through all
our vessels and supplying every part of our body with the oxygen and
nutrients it needs. With improved circulation, on the other hand, we can
improve heart health, enhance mental performance, boost the immune
system and the body’s metabolism, and simply give ourselves more
strength and energy to live our lives the way we want.
In a nutshell, cold exposure trains the blood and lymphatic vessels,
improves our blood circulation, activates the production of white blood cells,
boosts the physiological effects of the breathing exercises, triggers an enormous norepinephrine release, helps to respond more quickly and powerfully to stressors and even helps to lose weight.
Dealing with Discomfort
Discomfort or pain in your body is a change in chemicals within you. During cold exposure, your body sends out (pain) signals. By using focus and breathing techniques, you can learn how to handle these pain signals differently. Dealing with discomfort or pain in the cold teaches you how to handle physical and psychological discomfort in any situation.
MINDSET/COMMITMENT & MENTALWORK
“The limit is not the sky; the mind is! It is on the edge of our limits that we find the greatest growth. On this edge, you can choose to quit or to go beyond what you thought was impossible” - Wim Hof
We must, therefore, confront our internal dialogue taking place whenever we face a challenging or stressful situation, as well as to cope with the unexpected discomfort that life throws at us (see the Self-compassion module for more advice on productive self-talk).
The ultimate goal is to shift from avoidance to growth. So, here is a question: Are we open and searching for the things that excite us and feel important to us? Or are we simply letting life happen to us, for better or worse? Are we approaching or avoiding?
Our ability to face discomfort makes us psychologically stronger, as it builds resilience to stress and enhances our bravery. These are very useful qualities to develop. The cold can teach us this. Willingly exposing oneself to a situation that genuinely feels difficult (at first) and finding a gradual comfort in that exposure builds resilience to fear and stress. Change doesn’t happen overnight, but gradually and with constant effort. We cannot grow without taking risks, and we cannot take risk without building bravery and trusting ourselves and the world around us.
Commitment. According to scientific research, integrating these new habits into our daily lives requires 66 days of uninterrupted practice.
Visualization. Scientific studies have shown the positive effects of creative visualization on health, such as immunity, stress, healing, and pain management. Science also shows that it improves many facets of life, from athletic ability to cognitive performance, self-esteem, and goal achievement.
Before entering the cold source, we use visualization to program our body and mind for what is going to happen and prepare it, so it knows what to do. We visualize how it would feel, what sensations we are going to feel in the water.
EXERCISES & STRETCHES
Next to the three pillars of the WHM, physical exercises are also important. The goals of the exercises are to:
• Enhance mind-body connection
• Improve circulation and flexibility
• Increase focus
• Improve stability and balance
• Increase resilience
Remember, breathing and movement are interlinked. This is a core principle in yoga and the WHM incorporates it as well. It is important to breathe slowly and deeply while doing the stretches. Thus, to get the most out of the method, people must start by understanding how to work and feel their bodies. So, to get participants to understand that there are more options in breathing than just doing what they do without thinking about it, they should learn to breathe into different sections of the body.
If you are interested in getting a licensed WHM coach, I know a really good one who charges much less ($125 per training) than buying the online course ($250) or attending a one-day seminar ($200). If you choose to follow the method by yourself, I am sending you the training manual that coaches get when they pay $4000 to get certified.