Our Comforts Are Killing Us
Dr. Susanna Søberg, Ph.D Metabolism, advocates cold water plunges to increase mental and physical health.
In my keynote speeches, I've been talking about the need to Get Comfortable Being Uncomfortable. I've found in my personal experience that I'm able to train my mind and body to be more resilient after putting myself in uncomfortable situations. This training wasn't just helpful for climbing and 100-mile hikes. Resilience paid off in many ways, especially teaching me not to quit. That came in handy when running a start up. Getting uncomfortable made more successful in all spheres of my life -- business and personal.
I hate the cold yet I spent a 9 days camping in the snow on a Winter Outward Bound course. I don't sleep well at altitude and spent 5 nights at 16,000' acclimatizing for an attempt on Mt Chimborazo 20,548', hardly sleeping for 3 nights. Also got trapped on the Ingraham Flats (11,100') on Mt Rainier for 30 hours in 50 mile an hour winds. Imagine trying to go #1 or #2 in that weather. Now, there's not a night that goes by that I appreciate my pillow or a warm bathroom 10 ft away.
It turns out, there's a bit of science behind my hunch
Reliable studies that exposure to cold not only builds mental resilience, but it also has long term health benefits. Taking ice baths or 2-minute cold showers has been shown to decrease depression and increase the production of brown fat around the heart. Unlike its cousin white fat, brown fat is very good for us. Without it, we're more likely to get sick or gain weight.
Instead, Americans love to crank the heat in our homes. I also crack up watching all these empty cars idling in my neighborhood in February. These automatic starts have the car all cozy for us for the 10 second walk from our hot houses to our awaiting car.
The same thing goes for extreme heat. More studies correlate the use of frequent saunas to decreased disease and longevity. The reason is autophagy (cell death). Without stressors like extreme heat, our cells don't die off as fast, leading to heart disease and cancer. No wonder Scandinavian people live so long as they run from a hot sauna and roll around in the cold snow.
Wim Hof has popularized cold exposure and the scientific studies around the many health benefits. I've been following Dr Susanna Soberg's work in Cell Magazine.
We also don't have enough good stress through exercise and hunger. You may've heard about Intermittent Fasting where you don't eat for 16 hours. The same science is behind that -- the stress causes cell death.
Daily stressors like traffic, job challenges, kids, huge to-do lists are bad. But physical stressors have shown to be key longevity. Modern comforts are drastically reducing the good stressors. We're literally insulated from heat and cold. We're constantly snacking so we're never truly hungry. We're literally killing ourselves with modern comfort by preventing the body from doing what it's developed to do over millions of years.
Try adding these good stressors to improve your mind and body. It could add years to your live while making you more mentally resilient.
Get your heart rate for 4 hours per week.
· Try intermittent fasting 3x per week – stop eating at 8pm and don’t eat again until noon
· Take a 2 minute cold shower. It’s easy to start shorter and work your way up
· Take a 20-minute sauna 3x/week