The Benefits of Exposure to the Cold
Cold exposure is a technique in which a person (voluntarily) exposes themselves to temperatures below their comfort level. One thing from the beginning...nobody likes cold exposure! It can take many forms, cold showers, training outdoors, ice baths, falling asleep drunk in a park, cryotherapy or jumping in the sea at the end of a hard Thai boxing session in Barcelona. Now, these are things that most normal people want to avoid, however in my opinion being normal is also something to be avoided, normal is what got us into this mess.
No bad ass was ever made being normal, Mother Teresa didn't become who she was watching Netflix next to a heater, Bruce Lee wasn’t formed brunching with pals. Diamonds are not formed with a loving caress. In fact, a trend has been found in science; hormesis. Hormesis refers to the paradoxical adaptation that makes animals stronger and more efficient if they are exposed to environmental stressors. However, modern society and its technology keeps just trying to make us more and more comfortable, outside is the place to be avoided between the heated car and the air conditioned office. This diversion from our true nature is manifesting itself as physical and mental problems.
Author Chris Ryan tackles this subject in his upcoming book “Civilised to death”. He explains how advances in technology and the coddling and political correctness of modern society have left us weak and reeling for something real. Homeostasis and comfort will kill you. As comedian Louis C.K. put it, “Everything’s amazing, but nobody’s happy.” Here the focus is on cold but can be applied to any mental or physical stressor. Progress, the basic illusion of our age, is exhausted. So what do we do?
How about we go back to introducing some rites of passage again to build character and mental fortitude? Nothing good comes easy, in turn you can expect happiness due to a feeling of accomplishment and a reconnection with nature and our true nature. Let’s start by plunging ourselves into ice water. To feel how you've never felt you gotta do things you've never done. Fasting, intense physical training, cold exposure, meditation, these are just some of the ways to get there and things that should be taught in school instead of how to play the recorder or memorizing things which we have easy and constant access to.
The reported benefits are long term (adaptive), and thus not likely to occur with one or two isolated ventures. They are directly proportional (to a degree) to the variance between comfort level temperature and the temperature one partakes in. Pain relief and circulatory benefits are nothing new here so we will omit them from discussion.
I thought that might get your attention. Nobody wants fat on their body but it ain’t going nowhere, our internal fat plays an important role in energy production. Cold exposure turns white fat into brown fat (brown adipose tissue (BAT)), Why is that good? The fat turns brown due to increased mitochondria, mitochondria give you power. Power is good. Also BAT is active in burning calories and using energy. It can essentially turn calories from food into heat. BAT fat is where it’s at!
Indeed, studies show that cold exposure increases BAT activity which leads to increased calorie expenditure. Researchers concluded that frequent cold exposures might be an acceptable and economical way to address the current obesity epidemic.
Norepinephrine significantly increases learning (neurogenesis; which is the growth and development of brain cells), and is responsible for the ‘runners high’, so expect to feel real good after cold exposure.
Like the ketogenic diet, cold exposure reduces inflammation, inflammation is a precursor to all disease. It also reduces inflammation by increasing a microphase inhibiting protein. We are all inflamed due to Western eating habitsand other reasons common in our culture.
Inhibits production on TNF Alpha
This controls immune cells and causes chronic tissue damage and inflammation, this must be reduced and it is due to cold exposure.
Increases natural killer cells
Killer cells! These little bad asses aka glutathione reductase enzyme actively seek out damaging free radicals and rid lousy molecules from the body, similar to when we fast. Ten sessions of cold exposure (in this specific study cryotherapy but we see no reason for other types of cold not to bring same benefits) the expression of this yummy enzyme doubled!
Improves heart rate variability
Your heart will respond to and recover from all stressful situations better now. Just like meditation.
Increases Will Power
This is anecdotal and not yet backed by scientific research but Everest instructores can support this idea. Ourselves and clients have noticed a huge increase in will-power from taking regular cold showers, or ocean dips. Getting under freezing cold water every morning trains your brain to do things it doesn’t want to do.
Humanity may have a limited time left on this planet due to the ocean dying or many of the other ways we have ruined this place. What we are doing or ‘normality’ is not working. The world is often seemingly upside down, you think that priests are good and moral, the food in the supermarkets must nourish you right? Forget it, reject normality and do your own thing, jump in cold water, reject pouting selfies, spend a day looking at trees and meditating, reject drunkenness for drunkenness sake, make friends with what they tell you is bad, the most disagreeable parts of life like cold, psychedelic drugs, hunger, pain, being alone, etc, and watch how you grow, now we are warriors on the path to righteousness and self realization.
Our guru Wim Hof has shown the world that, through specific training techniques using cold exposure and breathwork, a person is able to control their autonomic nervous system. Before this research was done on Wim, the autonomic nervous system was largely thought to be beyond conscious control.
To Wim the cold is a teacher, it is like a God, we can use it to learn about our consciousness, how to learn to control the mind. The cold is immediate! It is right here and now, which gives a great opportunity to be mindful with it or meditate upon the sensation of cold manifesting itself. Instead of suffering and rejecting and avoiding the feeling of cold, suffer less by observing intently and exactly how and where cold manifests itself, make cold your warm friend.
Cold shower instructions to get you started:
Start light, during your normal shower routine; blast yourself during 30 seconds as cold as it goes, use counting as a distraction too. Breath through your nose to stop any gasping or involuntary movements, stay strong, this is for your health and happiness. I picture Wim Hof’s face as motivation, if he can do what he does how can I not do 30 seconds of cold water in a shower? Then after 30 secs go back to your normal shower routine, if its summer then just finish on cold. You will find it gets easier and soon your are ready for more than just one thirty second blast. If you could do this with cold what other things could you make friends with that used to make you run for the hills? Public speaking, exercise, fasting, cleaning? the options are limitless, being present makes any task bearable.