Michael Reibel Boesen

January 13, 2023

❄️A cold bath a day…


Back in November I wrote a post on the Wim Hof Method and I’ve been following the method until about mid-December, then I decided to try and do without the breathing exercises. The reason was simply that apart from the obvious benefits in terms of the number of pushups I could do that I wasn’t really sure that was where the benefits was coming from. That and I felt silly making the breathing exercises as I wasn’t really feeling I was getting anything out of it. Felt like I was wasting my time. Many people say they do get something out of them, so it might just not be for me.

So after doing only cold showers of which I’m now doing 10 minutes every day or every other day I can honestly say that this is where the mental and physical energy boost comes from that I have experienced over the past months.

So I was only very happy to stumble upon a podcast called Huberman Lab. As it turns out it’s run by Andrew Huberman, whose a professor and neuroscientist at Stanford who have studied cold exposure, so he has a full episode dedicated to all the benefits of cold exposure.

And it was quite an amazing experience to listen to that episode because just about all benefits (and single downside) I feel I’ve already experienced. He also goes deep into the benefits of cold exposure in terms of metabolism, but I’m not so interested in that currently. So here’s a quick overview of the mental benefits which is what I’m seeking. For the full details I highly recommend listening to the episode or if you’re in a rush read his sum up of the episode here.

Here goes:

  • 😎Focus / mental sharpness: I’ve experienced a tremendous increase in my ability to focus and in my own words execute after doing a cold shower. The effect is particular strong right after getting out where my mind can go from feeling groggy after too little sleep to feeling crisp as a cold winter morning (really the best way I can describe it). Sometimes the feeling lingers for a full half-day before it wears off. I just feel stronger and more mentally “fast” than usual. According to Dr. Huberman this is due to the increased levels of norephinephrine and noradrenaline which always increase when one is subjected to cold water (and other stressors).
  • 💪Willpower / resilience / become less reflexive: I wasn’t really looking for this one but it is probably now the main reason why I do it. I have two kids (0 and 4y) and as anyone with babies and toddlers can probably attest to they can be quite a handful at times. After I started to do this my mental energy to just not let all the craziness get to me has increased so much that I now very rarely feel completely burned out after 3 hours of the “wolf-hour” prior to bedtime 😅. According to Dr. Huberman you simply train your willpower by continually exerting a top-down control over brain states that regulate reflexive states, i.e the urge to get out or the urge to snap at a 4 yr old who just poured ketchup all over the floor (yep that happened yesterday). These chaotic events of having kids now simply doesn’t bother me as much so instead of snapping which will yield an explosion and even more craziness I feel more in control and I can simply take the more controlled action of talking with him about why he did it and that he shouldn’t do it again (which he may or may not do obviously).
  • 🤪Happiness: I’m using Day One as a journaling app and has been for 10+ years. It has this feature where it reminds one of entries I made x years ago on the same day. And these are at times quite a depressing read. There are many times where I’ve written something along the lines of “this must be the bottom” or “I’m not feeling very good”. But since starting on Wim Hof (and thus cold exposure) I haven’t felt this way even once. Which is really amazing for me at least. And the scientific explanation of that is that cold exposure releases dopamine. The happiness molecule. And as I learned in the episode apparently if I drink 2-3 cups of coffee prior to cold exposure there will be more receptors for dopamine in my brain which will further enhance the effect (currently trying to work that in to my daily routine). It’s so funny, because I actually started on WHM during the summer too but ended up skipping it because I also started running at the same time and I was so sure that the increases I experienced in happiness came from the runs that I stopped WHM 😂. Turns out it was the other way around. (I know running should have similar effects but I have never ever been able to feel that)

As for the single downside:
  • 🛌 Don’t do them just before bed: The reason is simply that the boost in mental energy, sharpness and happiness isn’t really conducive (for me at least) to go to bed. Whenever I feel this way I instinctly want to utilize it and want to work on something or do something with that energy. So this has caused me to stay up way too late. But yeah, that’s a very small price to pay. Also doing them in the evening seems a bit like a waste because then I have all that energy when I’m really trying to go to bed.

So what’s next?

  • 🚿Ice shower -> 🛁Ice bath: I want to transition into using an actual cold bath instead of a shower for a couple of key reasons: First of all a 10 minute cold shower wastes too much water I think and secondly it doesn’t get very cold. I can get it down to about 10C if turned up on full speed. So I think I would rather take colder ice baths that are shorter in length and also:
  • ⬆️Scaling walls: Another key reason why I want to go for ice baths instead of showers is to try what Dr. Huberman suggests about scaling “walls” instead of staying in for an increasing amount of time. A wall is basically represented by the feeling of wanting to get out now (or don’t wanting to get in). This is how an increase in norepinephrine and noradrenalline is felt (as far as I understand) thus to further scale the benefits above I must aim towards climbing more walls than just the single one of not really wanting to get in. Currently in the shower, even after 10 minutes I have only encountered that one wall.
  • ☕️Coffee: I want to try and drink 2-3 cups of coffee before my cold exposure to see if I can feel any noticeable increase in happiness.

I have a small vacation coming up in a couple of weeks but when I get back from that I want to get an ice bath to try leveling this thing up! 

Wish me luck! 🤞

About Michael Reibel Boesen

Dad 👨‍👩‍👦‍👦, builder (🤖⌨️🏢), 💌 Weekly Climate, 🚁📸photographer, 🎧vinyl record collector and reseller, 🥃 distiller (Gefjun), 🎸guitarist, 🎹pianist, 🍷winenerd (WSET3), 🏃‍♂️runner and 🤓engineer/PhD.