Why the Wim Hof Mindset & Method Are Inseparable

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "The Wim Hof Method" by Wim Hof. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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What is the Wim Hof mindset? Why is practicing this mindset crucial to the success of the Wim Hof Method?

As the third and final component of the Wim Hof Method, developing the Wim Hof mindset is critical to reaping the full benefits of the method. Wim Hof describes the mindset component as the “power of the mind,” which involves your mental approach to the Wim Hof Method.

Read on for a full description of the Wim Hof mindset, including how to practice it yourself.

Understanding the Wim Hof Mindset

Before explaining the Wim Hof mindset, it’s important to understand how it relates to the Wim Hof Method. In The Wim Hof Method book, motivational speaker Wim Hof (a.k.a. The Iceman) explains the Wim Hof Method—a system based on cold exposure, conscious breathing, and mental dedication. This method is praised for its ability to transform your health, reduce your pain and stress, and maximize your mental energy.

In this article, we’ll first explore why your mindset is critical to reaping the full benefits of the Wim Hof Method. Then, we’ll describe how you can embody the right attitude every day.

Why Your Mindset Matters

Wim Hof argues that your mindset is critical to the Wim Hof Method because it ensures that the other two components (cold exposure and breathwork) work as effectively as possible.

Why is this so? Hof believes that we’re able to consciously influence our autonomic nervous system not just via our breathwork but also via our minds. As evidence, Hof points to a 2008 experiment that found that he was able to control his vagus nerve—a cranial nerve associated with unconscious processes like inflammation—more than previously thought possible. 

(Shortform note: Other experts have also found that you can influence your vagus nerve via both breathwork and positive mantras but seemingly don’t see this as evidence that we can consciously influence our autonomic nervous system. That said, it’s impossible to compare their findings with the results of the 2008 experiment Hof cites, as that experiment was never published.)  

However, Wim Hof argues that this ability is dependent on your mindset: You must believe that it’s possible to control your physiological responses. In other words, unless you truly believe that cold exposure and breathwork can benefit you in some way, you won’t reap their full benefits. 

(Shortform note: Research backs up Hof’s contention that your mindset is essential to the success of his methods: The authors of the study that found practitioners of Hof’s method could suppress their immune responses after being injected with bacteria published a follow-up study emphasizing that people who expected Hof’s methods to work were less likely to report flu-like symptoms.)   

This doesn’t mean you can’t be at all skeptical of Hof’s methods. Rather, Hof emphasizes the importance of trusting your body as you try these methods: In other words, focus fully on each technique as you do it, instead of listening to music or worrying about the time. As Hof points out, he takes on major public stunts (like jumping into ice baths) because he’s proven himself capable of doing so in his own practice. Similarly, the mere act of trying these methods suggests that you’re at least open to the possibility that they work—and by repeatedly trying them and experiencing their benefits, you’ll become increasingly convinced of their power, too. 

How Hof’s Methods Compare to Spiritual and Practical Texts

Hof’s description of how to practice his methods despite potential skepticism is similar to how both spiritual and practical texts recommend approaching new skills. On the spiritual side, in The Secret, Rhonda Byrne also argues that trusting that a method will work helps make it work; she argues that your experience of the world is based on what your thoughts naturally attract—so if you think something will happen, it will happen

On the practical side, The Confidence Code authors argue that if you master a skill, you’ll develop “confidence”—a belief in your own ability to do that skill that’s so strong, it drives you to actually perform the skill. Hof’s own confidence stems from his mastery of his method. Similarly, by focusing fully on each technique and trusting your body, you can master Hof’s method and develop confidence in your own ability to make it work as Hof describes.

How to Cultivate the Wim Hof Mindset

Wim Hof recommends that you perform the following mindset practice each morning—ideally, at the end of your breathwork.

(Shortform note: Hof doesn’t specify why you should do it after your breathwork, but other meditation experts also recommend meditating after breathwork because your mind is less stressed and more relaxed then.)  

Starting in a relaxed state, think of a mantra or goal—such as, “I am relaxed and in control.” As you do so, notice your physical reaction to this thought. Do you feel comfortable or tense?

If it’s the latter, breathe until you relax and are comfortable with your mantra. Once you truly believe your mantra, breathe into that feeling and then go about your day.

(Shortform note: How does Wim Hof’s mindset practice help you become more open to the benefits of cold exposure and breathwork? Experts suggest that when you meditate, you become more open to new experiences because you practice observing your thoughts without immediately reacting to them. Hof’s mindset practice may have a similar effect, since you breathe through any potential tension you feel regarding your mantra and wait for your body to adjust to the tension instead of trying to relieve it in some other way.) 

Why the Wim Hof Mindset & Method Are Inseparable

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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of Wim Hof's "The Wim Hof Method" at Shortform.

Here's what you'll find in our full The Wim Hof Method summary:

  • The story of renowned motivational speaker Wim Hof (a.k.a. The Iceman)
  • How Hof learned to survive dangerously low temperatures
  • Why and how you should practice Hof's breathing exercises

Emily Kitazawa

Emily found her love of reading and writing at a young age, learning to enjoy these activities thanks to being taught them by her mom—Goodnight Moon will forever be a favorite. As a young adult, Emily graduated with her English degree, specializing in Creative Writing and TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language), from the University of Central Florida. She later earned her master’s degree in Higher Education from Pennsylvania State University. Emily loves reading fiction, especially modern Japanese, historical, crime, and philosophical fiction. Her personal writing is inspired by observations of people and nature.

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