If you’ve ever wanted to see an example of the mind-body connection or the ability of thoughts to influence health, consider Wim Hof. A Dutchman who regulates his body temperature mentally, Hof, 52, has set numerous world records, including swimming long distances under ice, running half marathons barefoot in ice and snow, and being immersed in an ice bath for nearly two hours
I’m sure many who have seen him on YouTube ask, how does he do it? Others may be asking why.
For me, Hof’s ability to break through conventional human limitations brings up a host of questions. Is the body more than a self-acting, material mechanism? Is there a way that one’s thoughts can bring about health without physical intervention? Can anyone do this?
Hof’s feats have been studied at the Feinstein Institute in New York, the Thermo Physiological Institute in Oulu, Finland, and Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre in the Netherlands.
At the TED conference held last year in Amsterdam, Wim Hof was a featured guest. Professor Maria Hopman of the Nijmegen Medical Centre explained how she had studied Hof’s abilities and provided three possible explanations:
1. He’s conditioned his body to accept extremely cold conditions.
2. He’s genetically advantaged.
3. His thoughts allow him to control his body.
Recently, Hof agreed to participate in tests that ultimately called into question the idea that his feats may be due only to physical conditioning. Scientists at the University Medical Centre in Nijmegen conducted various tests on Hof for a year, culminating in what they described as the most difficult test on March 31, 2011. That day, they tested Hof’s mental ability to influence his immune system. Professor of experimental intensive care medicine Dr. Peter Pickkers and his team injected Hof with endotoxin to see if his thoughts would be able to effectively combat the bacteria. The injection was expected to cause Hof to experience flu-like symptoms.
They were astonished when he failed to get sick.
ScienceDaily.com reported the experiment in its April 22, 2011 article, “Research On ‘Iceman’ Wim Hof Suggests It May Be Possible to Influence Autonomic Nervous System and Immune Response.”
The investigators concluded that Hof was remarkable, but that the experiment could not serve as scientific evidence until the same results could be obtained with larger groups demonstrating the same results.
Jin Songhao and Chen Kecai would likely disagree that Hof’s abilities are unique to him and the result of a genetic advantage. Earlier this year, both men surpassed Hof’s previous ice bath record of 115 minutes. Songhao now holds the world record at an even two hours.
Hof doesn’t consider himself an anomaly. In fact, he gives workshops teaching others his meditation practice and believes everyone is capable of what he has demonstrated.
At the TED conference previously mentioned, moderator Jon Rosenfeld asked Hof what motivated him. He responded, “My mission is to show that everybody, by their mind, can reach more depth within themselves, and that we all have healing power, an inner doctor. Go back to that inner power and heal yourself.” Hof also noted that he believed that one’s thoughts can prevent disease.
I don’t know too much about Hof’s method of meditation, but I appreciate what he has accomplished. I also agree with him that we are all capable of promoting better health through improving our mentality. In fact, according to an astonishing report last summer, nearly half of all American adults are also concluding that praying about their health is worthwhile.
In my own experience, I’ve found that keeping my thoughts aligned with what I know about God has brought an end to chronic migraine headaches, physical injuries, and other forms of illness. These positive outcomes didn’t come about through positive thinking or mentally attempting to will a change of health conditions. Instead, they were the result of lifting my consciousness to recognize and express more of my spiritual identity.
Hof’s book Becoming the Iceman is now available online.