Experience the exhilaration of cold exposure
Experiencing the exhilaration of an ocean dip on a cold day sparked my curiosity about cold exposure and vagal tone.
The vagus nerve is the major connector between our brain and our gut and immune system. It is involved in the fight/flight response. Low vagal tone is associated with poorer health and a heightened stress response whereas higher vagal tone results in a more resilient person, both physically and mentally.
We know that slow deep breathing is one way to improve vagal tone. Research suggests that cold exposure is also beneficial.
I was bemused on researching the Wim Hof method that improved creativity is one of the potential benefits!
Next time I am hesitating before a winters ocean swim I will remind myself that not only will I feel amazing during and afterwards I will be enhancing my creative capacity while simultaneously improving my ability to deal with stress, supporting my immune system and decreasing inflammation.
The Wim Hof method claims a myriad of benefits including improved sleep quality, increased energy, enhanced sports performance, improved concentration and more effective mind body connectivity. All factors intrinsic to living life with vitality.
Of note, there are a number of research papers supporting these claims although I haven’t analysed them.
What I can say with certainty is that practicing slow deep breathing and cold water immersion are not harmful and the latter can be an unforgettable and invigorating experience.