Daily Practice

How Cold Exposure and Breathwork Will Change Your Life

Many people hate the cold, but I’ve got news for you: It may be time to embrace chilly temperatures once and for all. Whether you’re taking a walk outside in the brisk weather, getting a cryotherapy treatment, or taking an ice-cold shower, cold exposure will help you experience benefits that span from your mental health to your physical health. Wondering how to change your life? Pairing cold exposure with breathwork can do the trick.

Here are five ways that cold exposure can benefit you.

Increase Your Brain Function

While you may think that cold temperatures only affect you physically, they also have an effect on you mentally. This has been an area of interest to researchers, and for good reason. One 2018 study, for example, examined participants who received whole body cryotherapy treatment. If you’re not familiar with cryotherapy, it’s basically the process of entering a chamber of uber-cold temperatures. We’re talking a few minutes in as cold as -200º fahrenheit. There are many cryotherapy benefits. It’s very popular amongst athletes to help with muscle recovery, but as the 2018 study showed, cold exposure can also improve your cognitive (or brain) functioning.

While we’re on the topic of the brain, whole body cryotherapy cold exposure may be a helpful add-on treatment for depression, too, according to a 2019 study. Participants experienced an improvement in depression scores after undergoing ten two-minute whole body cryotherapy sessions over the course of two weeks. Who would’ve thought freezing cold temperatures could boost your mood?

You don’t have to splurge on cryotherapy treatments to experience these benefits. Cold exposure via cold showers might just do the trick, too, according to one study.

Reduce Your Inflammation

Another benefit of cold exposure is that it can reduce inflammation in your body. Chronic inflammation can lead to chronic illnesses as well as damage to the body that is hard to repair. Therefore, it’s crucial that you reduce inflammation in the body to stay healthy and prevent chronic disease. Research shows that one way you can reduce inflammation is through cold exposure. This is something that the Wim Hof method has long been boasting as a benefit. One study examined the Wim Hof method — cold exposure paired with breathwork — and found that it was effective in reducing excessive or persistent inflammation that is associated with chronic diseases.

Reducing inflammation comes in handy in other more short-term situations, too. This is part of the reason why cold exposure is so popular with athletes. It can help with inflammation due to injury, decreasing swelling and pain. You can reap these benefits by taking a cold shower, having an ice bath, or getting a localized cryotherapy treatment or whole body cryotherapy treatment.

Mountains with fog

Burn More Calories

If you’re not already sold on cold exposure, listen to this unexpected benefit: it can help you burn more calories. The body has different types of fat, “brown fat” being one of them. When you activate this brown fat, you burn calories. Research has shown that one great way to activate brown fat is through cold exposure. You can apply this to your life by braving the cold and exercising outside this winter.

This is another one of the many cryotherapy benefits.Cold exposure through whole body cryotherapy can also help you to burn calories, even if you aren’t exercising. Yep, you can burn calories while doing nothing during a cryotherapy session.

Level Up Your Energy

Need even more energy than your coffee gives you? Try taking a cold shower. This will wake you right up. Cold exposure can give you a jolt of energy that is unmistakable. Aside from taking a cold shower, you can have cold exposure in other ways, such as going for a brisk walk or run outside in cold temperatures or getting a cryotherapy treatment. Also, fun fact, a cold shower can boost your testosterone levels.

Breathwork, used alongside cold exposure or on its own, can also be energizing, as well. Many breathwork exercises are more relaxing to the body, but other breathwork techniques can help to give you energy. One of these breathwork methods is the Wim Hof technique (more on that in the next section). You can also try what is known as a “pranayma” in kundalini yoga, called the breath of fire. This involves fast and powerful breathing. You can check out a great tutorial on YouTube here.

Waterfall shower

Wim Hof's Techniques

We saved the best for last! Wim Hof, sometimes called “The Iceman” is known for his extreme cold exposure work. He pairs cold exposure with breathwork for powerful, science-backed results. He is the king of cold exposure.

The breathwork component of the Wim Hof method entails the following:

  • Take 30 to 40 quick powerful breaths, holding the last breath for as long as you can.
  • Take a long, deep “recovery breath.” This step is the meat of the Wim Hof Breathing Method.
  • Repeat the cycle 3 to 4 times, and don’t be surprised if you feel lightheaded or tingly. (You can read more detailed instructions and watch a  Wim Hof Breathing Method guided video here)
  • Let your breathing normalize.

Then, of course, there’s the cold exposure component. The method suggests using cold showers as a way to reap the benefits. Not everyone can be so lucky as to be able to take plunges into freezing Lake Tahoe, a la the Goop episode featuring Wim Hof.

If you want to dive deep into the Wim Hof method, the Wim Hof website offers online courses to teach you everything you need to know.

Still wondering about how to change your life aside from using cold exposure and breathwork? The Daily Shifts has the best resources for you. Start out by taking our 5-day course to change your daily routine and put in place powerful, simple habits for the best week (and life) ever. You can also take our course to find your true purpose and rebuild your life from the inside out. Last but not least, you can use our app to stay on track with your goals and build even more healthy habits.

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