A Dramatic Drop in Anxiety

I’d like to share about an interesting experience I had around a month ago, and then again about a week ago.

The basics of the story are fairly simple. To begin, I had been experiencing quite intense levels and states of anxiety. It was something that had been with me, and more or less steadily building, for at least a week. I was able, eventually, to work with it somewhat effectively, taking some “external” steps to deal with some circumstances in the outer world, as well as some “internal” mental steps. In these latter, by the way, I was helped in part by Sayadaw U Tejaniya’s When Awareness Becomes Natural.

Despite this, I remained in an intensely anxious state. There was some relief from having plans, both outer and inner, and from having taken some outer steps. And yet a rather intense state remained. I’m not sure how best to put this, but one might say my nervous system was still highly anxious and was still very primed for continuing anxious reactions. It was very bodily and very basic emotions, which in turn unsettled the mind and tended to produce anxious cognitions. Not a preferable state.

It felt, and again I’m not quite sure how to put this, but it felt as if I needed a powerful or deep “reset” of sorts. And, I recalled some of the effects of Wim Hof’s basic breathing exercise being described in that sort of way. Actually I had been increasingly thinking of Wim Hof breathing, so maybe that’s where the “reset” notion came from. And there’s a couple things to keep in mind in this connection. One is that I had not done this breathing, to the best of my recollection, for at least half a year. The other is that, previously, I had practiced this breathing almost daily for what I believe was at least four months. So I had experience with it, but also had not done it in a long time.

Determined to take some further step to help myself, while also trying not to expect too much, I sat down and did four full rounds of basic Wim Hof breathing. In terms of getting myself to do it and to see though all four rounds, it wasn’t easy, but I got a little momentum from each one and kept renewing my commitment. By the end of the second I was noticing some change in affective state. After finishing the fourth, the change was shocking. I’ve experienced good and significant effects from this breathing before, but the difference in mental, emotional, and bodily state in this case was incredible. Anxiety, of an intense bodily variety, had gone from very high level to a very low level, and I felt surprisingly relaxed and at ease. The changed state continued the next day as well, and for a while after.

That happened maybe about a month ago, and then a week or so ago, I had a close repeat of the same experience, if perhaps not quite as dramatic. There isn’t really a thesis to this, and I’m not making any claims about Wim Hof breathing. The experience made such an impression on me that I wanted to share it. However if I look for a thesis or lesson, one might be that this sort of experience indicates the possibilities of breathing and breathwork. And it also, I think, helps show that breathing has important roles to play in philosophy, and that we should include it as complement to awareness and cognitive meditations.

Here is Wim Hof explaining how the basic breath method works: Wim Hof breathing tutorial by Wim Hof


SeekerFive creates expressive photographic art at matthewvphoto.redbubble.com.

He also creates visual art and designs under his Leaf Town brand at https://society6.com/leaftown and on Instagram @leaftowndesigns (instagram.com/leaftowndesigns).

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12 thoughts on “A Dramatic Drop in Anxiety

  1. I have loved Wim Hof teachings for a long time and I had watched this video before and done the breathing, but it gave a whole new perspective reading your story. Thank you for getting me back into Hof today!! 🧘‍♀️

  2. This writing is a breath of fresh air. From a brain perspective, it facilitates movement from the downstairs brain to the upstairs brain. It really lifts the spirits, if you’ll pardon the pun. Thank you for sharing Seeker Five.

  3. A great post! I’d heard of Wim Hof from James Nestor’s book Breathe – but this is a great illustration of the power of the method and of breathing. I’m glad it changed your affect and helped dispel the anxiety!

  4. Thank you for sharing this . My husband has been doing it for the last three and can see tremendous effects and now your post is another vouch for that. I’m so glad it is helping you . I have been doing it but not so religiously and now I’m more inspired.

  5. Transcendental meditation has a intent focus on breathing. Deep breathing exercises are great for managing anxiety. I find that adding a mantra and focusing on the breath is even more substantial. Just my 2 cents, have a great day!

  6. Deep breathing does have a direct impact on our brains, thanks for sharing your experience. I want to appreciate you for taking steps to take care of your anxiety 🙂 I hope you do well!

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