The Wim Hof Interview | The 26-Time World Record Holder Who Believes He Can Cure Depression Forever

“For 30 years they called me crazy, irresponsible and a thousand other things. Then I went to science and now I see I am changing people..."

“That’s how it all started. I lost my wife but I found conscious happiness from there, bit by bit, by taking away emotional trauma and reversing the process into mood control. That energy flows through your body and through your mind. I know how to empty myself and become clean, fresh, new… happy.”

To some, Wim Hof is a visionary. To others, he’s a dangerous maverick. Whatever your opinion, it’s difficult not to hang on his every word as soon as the man starts talking.

If you’re not familiar with the 57-year-old Dutchman, then here’s a brief but rather telling introduction.

Photograph: Enahm Hof

Wim Hof holds 26 official Guinness World Records, all of which are beyond comprehension to most who hear them.

In 2007 he climbed 22,000ft up Mount Everest in only shorts and shoes. In 2009 he ran a full marathon in the Arctic circle in temperatures close to -20°C, wearing only a pair of shorts and having not trained at all.

In 2011 Wim broke his own cold-endurance record, remaining submerged neck-deep in an ice bath for 112 minutes. The same year he completed another marathon without training, this time in the Namibian desert in temperatures of up to 40°C, without drinking a drop of water.

Photograph: Enahm Hof
Photograph: Enahm Hof
Photograph: Enahm Hof

He also once hung from one finger on a bar between two hot air balloons at an altitude of 6,562ft.

Wim started engaging with different breathing techniques and meditation after his wife took her own life in 1995. Now he’s using his achievements and records as a platform to prove, with scientific backing, that his method of breathing can be used by anyone to eradicate depression and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), amongst other things.

Photograph: Enahm Hof

“Unhappiness brings on necessity,” he tells me. “Especially when you’re bringing up four kids alone, with little money. You need to find a way to bring joy and happiness back again, to raise kids and show them love. I found it through practise in nature, in the cold and in breathing.

“What everyone thinks is normal; depression, being sick, all these kinds of diseases? They are not normal. We do not need to be sick. We do not need to be depressed. We have just got to find our way back inside our inner power and be the way nature meant us to be.”

Wim attributes his tolerance levels not to any innate superhuman qualities, but to his ability to increase his heart rate, adrenalin levels and blood alkalinity through ‘the Wim Hof Method’. This mixture of meditation and breathing techniques is based on Tibetan Tummo techniques, and built through an exposure to the cold earning him the nickname ‘The Iceman’.

Photograph: Enahm Hof

“We have lost the natural connection with the depth within us,” he says. “The cold is merciless but righteous. It is my teacher. I have found some techniques in the cold and learned that if you breathe well you will learn how to consciously oppose it.

“If you really go deep within breathing you are able to change the chemistry of whatever emotional trauma you are feeling, and it makes you powerful.

“A whole lot of people are still depressed and victimised by disease, and they don’t know why. I know why…”

“I want to keep on working with brain surgeons and neurologists to show that we are able to tackle depression, PTSD, anxiety, fear and trauma, all residing in the depths of our brain. Together we will make the world a better place.”

Of course, anyone who believes they can eradicate illness and restore happiness to the world with a literal breath of fresh air is bound to be met with scepticism as well as interest. But what’s most intriguing about Wim is that his method has been scientifically proven – and that anyone is able to learn it.

Photograph: Enahm Hof
Photograph: Enahm Hof
Photograph: Enahm Hof

Back in 2007 an examination at the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research in New York showed that Wim could influence his own autonomic nervous system; suppressing inflammatory bodies in his blood stream associated with chronic illness.

But what was even more astonishing was the research project that followed at Radboud University Medical Center in Netherlands in 2014.

In a scientific study, Dr. Matthijs Kox and physician Peter Pickkers injected 24 healthy people, half of whom had been taught the Wim Hof Method, with an endotoxin known to cause fevers, chills and headaches. Those who were trained by Wim were able to reject the bacteria and avoid the symptoms, while those who were not trained were not.

Photograph: Enahm Hof

Dr. Kox and Pickkers believed this to be down to the breathing techniques of Wim Hof, whose pupils could deliberately secrete adrenaline in order to fend off inflammation. For the first time ever, there was scientific proof that suggested it may be possible to control your own immune system – and that it was a skill that could be taught.

Wim’s workshops on the ‘Wim Hof Method‘ have gone across the globe since being backed by science. He’s touring his now immensely popular classes in Australia, the United States, Canada, Europe and the UK in the new few months alone, where he says anyone can learn to do what he does.

“Scientific evidence takes things beyond speculation,” Wim says. “Suddenly a whole lot of people began to believe [in me].

Photograph: Enahm Hof

“I’ve got 26 world records. That’s nice. They brought a lot of attention but what was most important was that I got the attention of the scientific community, who were telling me what I was doing was physiologically not possible. But I was doing it.

“That’s where the really exciting journey began. Scientists were talking about the autonomic nervous system, the innate immune system and how we were not able to influence them at will. Now I have shown that we can. And not only me, but within four days of me training people they were able to go into their autonomic nervous system and innate immune system and stop a bacteria which was injected with a 100 percent score.

“For 30 years they called me crazy, irresponsible and a thousand other things. There was a lot of mockery and a lot of cynicism from people that did not have a real sense of happiness or sense within themselves. Then I went to science and now I see I am changing people.

Wim Hof leads a class on his now famous method Photograph: Enahm Hof

“Everybody is able to tap into their deepest physiology and learn how to control or deeply implement their mood. Everybody wants to be happy but we are too caught up in daily stress and we don’t know how to stop it. These breathing techniques allow us to stop this and they are now validated through science.”

Wim oozes charisma verging on irresistible in the hour in which we speak. He’s often so enthusiastic about his project that he’ll finish his sentences nearly screaming in joyful exclamation.

Such is his own belief in his work, and so contagious his energy, that having heard him speak it would be easy to commit to his teachings, despite the stunningly extravagant nature of his beliefs.

Photograph: Enahm Hof

There are still doubts being raised of course. There was controversy after four people died over a two-year period after suffering shallow water blackouts while practising the method, though Wim had warned not to practise it in unsafe surroundings.

And there are some that say that his belief in being able to cure illness may offer false hope to those suffering, particularly cancer sufferers. Speaking to Wim, it’s clear that he does not intend to mislead anyone, though he is evidently reluctant to put any sort of cap on the potential of his method or rule out any possibilities. Nevertheless, it’s a method that preaches a deep-rooted positivity towards nature and existence if nothing else, and there’s an obvious air of spirituality about his teaching.

Photograph: Enahm Hof

“We are too alienated from nature now,” he concludes. “We’ve developed non-stimulating comfort-zone behaviour living in houses and walking on pavements and wearing clothes all the time and it’s weakening our systems. We don’t breathe properly.

“What I’ve found is a way to go back into the depths of our body no matter where we are; the jungle, the desert, the North Pole or the city. It’s all the same, but in the cities we deal with a lot of stress that takes away our control.

“In the beginning I was just looking around and thinking that there is more than this. There is so much war and unnecessary greed for things that are not essential for happiness, health and strength, like money and power and houses and cars. Where is the sensitivity? Where is the love? Where is the creativity and the beauty of life? Where is that feeling?

Photograph: Enahm Hof

“It’s a fear-based society where they tell you to become this or you won’t succeed. Fucking hell man! I want to turn around the system. I’m doing my best but still, a whole lot more people are doing their best and are still depressed and victimised by disease, and they don’t know why. I know why. It’s because they have lost their connection and live by the system.

“I made myself a test subject. We are researchers of life itself. Because whatever is existent right now is no good and we’ve got to change that and bring more love into the world for everyone. If you emanate happiness you pass it on. There is no speculation about this. We are going to be a light in the life of people and pass it on; become radiant like sunshine.”

It’s certainly hard to argue with that.

To read the rest of Mpora’s January ‘Happiness Issue’, follow this link or to find out more on the Wim Hof Method, click here.

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