The ways of the Iceman.

A number of my friends are extoling the benefits from following the practices outlined by “Dutch Iceman”  Wim Hof – these include breathing exercises to increase the effectiveness of our breathing and building up a tolerance of exposure to cold water or freezing environments.

Hof explains that through breathing exercises and repeated exposure to the cold, his method will lead to real health benefits: more energy, lowered stress levels and an improved immune system. He says this enables him to undertake seemingly superhuman feats of endurance.  Hof says that if we breathe properly, then the oxygen levels in our tissues increase and adrenaline floods the body, granting strength that we didn’t know we had.

“If you oxygenize the body the way we do it, the oxygen gets into the tissue. Regular breathing doesn’t do that. What happens in the brain stem, the brain says, ‘There is no oxygen anymore’ and then it triggers adrenaline to shoot out throughout the body. Adrenaline is for survival, but this time it is completely controlled … the adrenaline shoots throughout the body and resets it to the best functionality.”

You can find out more about Wim Hof’s method at his website here.

Now to be clear, it seems that not only is Wim Hoff improving the effectiveness of the breathing, he is controlling oxygen within the body to trigger the release of adrenalin.  This is combined with exposures to cold environments or to cold water baths that will build up a tolerance.   NB: There is a lot of research that shows that exposure to such cold situations can have therapeutic effects, including boosting the immune system – and that these effects are long lasting.

It seems to me that the practice of the Wim Hof’s methods may also increase one’s mindfulness – and so deliver the associated benefits:  breath focus is a practice that quietens the mind… developing an ability to focus and to avoid distractions (external or internal); while authority over one’s emotional reaction to cold shock is about the mind recognising the reactions yet being able to quench the automatic impulses (fight or flight); is developing an authority over ones emotional responses.  Of course, Wim Off is seeking to develop other skills and attributes – yet I believe that these mindfulness skills will help to improve concentration – and even attain “flow states” – as well making one less impulsive and able to develop better executive function.

Wim Hof’s method is much more than mindfulness … but followers will reap the benefits of becoming more mindful

Subliminal Messages?

Is it possible to influence people or even to control them by sending subliminal messages – messages or images delivered in such a way that they bypass the consciousness so that the recipient remains unaware that they have received such messages?

I listed recently to Mathew Syed’s BBC radio 4 programme “Sidesways” focussing on a 1990s court case in Nevada where the families of two young men who had committed suicide accused the rock band Judas Priest of including subliminal messages in their 1975 album track “Better by you better than me”

It is a great listen.  Here:

It turned out that the first amendment didn’t protect the right to send subliminal messages… so it was “game on” in court.

The plaintives presented a series of experts who sighted examples of alleged subliminal messaging in sound, images and graphics to trigger violent or sexual thoughts. Further, there was a whole industry in 1980s… and still today…    providing self-help help audios to enable folk to give-up cigarettes and break other auctions, improve your golf… boost your self-confidence etc, etc. Plus, it was a common belief in the USA that the Chinese had used subliminal messaging to brain wash us military prisoners.

The concept, it was thought, relied upon the idea of sending “hidden” or “obscured” messages to subjects, so that their conscious executive function did not register or consider such messages. These messages would then change beliefs and thoughts without subjects even being aware of such messages – brain washing or even controlling individuals… or mass populations.

However, the clear scientific research demonstrated that subliminal messaging does not work.   To persuade people one has to win trust and provide persuasive arguments.

Spoiler: The court ruled that the plaintives had not demonstrated that Judas priest had inserted any subliminal messages into the relevant album – and had not demonstrated that the two young men acted because of the music that they had listened to. The case was thrown out.

Yet the weird thing is that many people still believe in the power of subliminal messaging – positive and negative – being an effective way to control people. Perhaps they have received subliminal messages to that effect!

(NB: If it did work we would be deluged by such subliminal messages from politicians, religions and marketeers).

Just to bring this subject back home I would reflect that MBCT… a mix of mindfulness and CBT… carefully explains how our thoughts and emotions work so that we can become aware of these processes and can exert an authority to prevent ourselves becoming overwhelmed or distracted.  Nothing subliminal about it – it’s right there.