Before I get into the meat of this post I need to chat about two problems affecting our planet right now.
You have no doubt dealt with both.
One of them is entirely within your control.
The first problem is the endless desire for comfort.
As a society we are used to being comfortable, safe, and certain.
This means we avoid stress when we can but at some point it will inevitably show back up in our lives and nibble away at our emotional states as we desperately find the means to cope with or overcome it.
One instance could be someone cutting you off in traffic without ever giving you a warning they were shifting lanes or the stress caused by a deadline where you have to get the work completed on time or you could face serious consequences like losing your job.
As I’m typing this, it’s year two of the coronavirus which has brought with it the necessity to socially distance ourselves from others and to cover our faces, while making sure at the same time we are being mindful of everything we touch so we don’t contract this deadly pathogen.
Now the coronavirus is very real but the mental stress of worrying about this invisible fiend is tearing apart people’s sanity and dismantling their immune system which therefore ironically in the end makes them even more susceptible to disease and nasty pathogens.
What about all that stress on your heart? It’s feeling the pressure 24/7 as it strenuously pumps blood throughout the body and our lungs that are right next door are barely given the chance to open up and expand and let go fully without constriction.
As a direct consequence of this added societal, emotional, and psychological stress we have shifted to staying primarily in a sympathetic way of being.
The sympathetic nervous system is associated with our “fight or flight” response. It keeps your body on high alert in an “always on” primed state that was super helpful when we had to watch out for bloodthirsty beasts like saber-toothed tigers.
We must flip the spectrum and function from a calm parasympathetic mode that allows us to properly assess the situations that arise in our life without jumping into the fray before thinking things through logically.
Unfortunately, to cope with all this stress people reach for medication prescribed by clueless doctors they put their unbridled trust in or they attempt to forget how they feel by numbing themselves with sitcoms and mindless TV.
We vicariously live through other people’s realities to escape our own.
As we watch TV we make sure the temperature is set just right throughout the house so it’s not too hot or cold.
It’s like Goldilocks and the three bears.
That must have been a metaphor for comfort zones?
In the fridge our food is perfectly preserved and we don’t have to run outside with a bow and arrow and attempt to hunt our meal.
Our prehistoric ancestors would be ashamed if they could travel forward in time and witness how soft and fragile a species we have turned into.
Humans back then had sharpened senses, a tough-as-nails warrior spirit, and most importantly highly adaptable bodies that could withstand practically any extreme weather or circumstance that befell them.
We need this kind of stress in our life that builds character, forges mental resiliency, and strengthens the body.
This form of helpful stress is called hormesis.
Think about that challenging workout you conquered this morning. When your sweating profusely and swinging those weights and squatting until your calves cry for mercy you are at the same time tearing the muscle fibers.
At night, in deep sleep your muscles will begin to repair all that tearing and build back up to be even stronger and capable of lifting more weight.
After all I’m pretty sure you aren’t goin to the gym simply for the fun of moving a bunch of weirdly shaped metal objects around just for the heck of it.
Nah, you want to be swole right!
Well it’s about time you got used to some extra stress in your life to build yourself into the warrior that lies within you that is craving to break free from the self imposed prison of comfort. Unleash the beast!
That’s your biological birthright!
The Best Hormetic Stress
To truly tap into the raw potential (see what I did there) of your indomitable ancestors you need to learn how to harness one of the best types of hormetic stress available.
Cold exposure (aka cold immersion)
What’s that? It simply means exposing your naked body to the frigidity of an icy lake or cold shower.
In the heart of the Netherlands lives a middle-aged Dutch sage with a scraggly beard and jolly demeanor.
Wim Hof has been given the nickname “The Iceman” for his unique ability to utilize the elements of subzero temperatures to optimize his health and regulate his internal body temperature through a dynamic combination of deep breathing and repeated exposure to the cold.
Because of this trained ability, he broke numerous world records which include summitting Mount Everest wearing nothing but shorts and shoes, and then years later he ran a half marathon above the arctic circle.
Other incredible feats include being stuck inside a giant block of ice for a few hours in front of the Ruben Museum Of Art in New York City!
Wim is remarkable in his ability to consciously control his core temperature and manipulate his nervous system using his Wim Hof Method which consists of three Pillars:
💨 Pillar 1 : Breath
🥶 Pillar 2: Cold
🧠 Pillar 3: Commitment (Mind)
I’ll up date this link when I share pillar 1 in another post.
ANYONE can do what Wim has done using his method.
Support Wim’s mission to share the benefits of cold exposure by grabbing Wim’s book!
How To Perform Cold Exposure
It’s simple, just take a regular shower like you normally do then turn the knob to as cold as you can get and bask in the freezing water for at least two minutes.
If two minutes is a real stretch then try this for 30 seconds one week, 45 seconds the next, 1 minute the following week and eventually you’ll be able to stand in the shower for up to two minutes or longer!
After only 10 days you’ll start seeing a noticeable difference in your ability to withstand the cold and your heartbeat will even lower to around 15-30 bpm.
Slower beating means less stress on your cardiovascular system.
The Jawdropping Benefits Of Cold Exposure
Your vascular system will be adapting over time and the vascular tone will improve keeping your heart, capillaries, arteries, and blood vessels pumping blood most efficiently without strain.
With the vascular tone developed you acquire increased tolerance to the cold and your body temperature is able to set itself in an optimal range more frequently.
That’s why you should not wear all those puffy jackets, scarves and the multitude of cozy layers to keep you from experiencing the sting of the cold as this resets your ability to adapt to varying degrees of extreme temperatures.
Another benefit I’ve experienced that’s not mentioned in the book is that you will easily bring up any mucus and phlegm inside the chest or throat, so if you’re congested this is amazing!
And if you’re a diabetic check out this next point…
I listened to a podcast episode from Ben Greenfield and he mentioned that cold exposure has been shown to minimize blood sugar elevation.
This is pretty cool stuff if you already ate a big breakfast beforehand or the rare occasion your cravings got the best of you as you sneaked a sugary sweet from the pantry.
*If that’s not the right episode try this one.
The shock of the cold water in your shower and then forcing your body to stay in that uncomfortable setting releases opioid-like euphoria inducing cannabinoids.
In plain speak: your brain gives you the chemicals you need to numb the pain of the cold.
This also occurs when a tattoo artist is burning the ink onto someone’s skin. Initially it’s excruciatingly painful for (most) people but then that eventually subsides as this natural novocain is produced in the brain.
You also release the brain chemical norepinephrine which is associated with heightened focus, memory, and mood regulation.
But by far the most astounding reason to take a cold shower in the morning is the massive increase in brown fat.
This is NOT your typical undesirable fat that clumps up on your waistline or gives you more chins then you need.
On the contrary, this kind of fat can actually help you LOSE weight!
Brown fat get’s it’s unique color and namesake because of the great density of mitochondria packed into the fat cells.
Mitochondria are the powerplants of your cells converting oxygen into ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate) the bodies main energy source of charging your cells and helping muscles contract.
Brown fat (brown adipose tissue) builds up on the top portion of your body in the upper back, along the spine, the collarbones and near the neck. As your body attempts to protect you from the cold the brown fat burns energy, releasing more heat. It’s your own internal combustion engine!
This calorie burning process is called nonshivering thermogenesis.
It’s been shown that 50 grams of brown fat can burn an additional 300 calories in ONE day!!
Brown fat can secrete hormones, one of which is adiponectin, released during extensive exposure to the cold. Adiponectin is incredible because it diverts existing glucose into your muscle and out of your bloodstream, it also quells inflammation and may even help with insulin signaling in your brain.
Alright so now you know why you should be taking a cold shower.
Tomorrow I challenge you to incorporate cold exposure into your morning routine!