Archive: Ice baths help Dubliner gain back control after Bipolar disorder struggle

Johnny Brew

Wim Hof instructor and nutritionist Greg Xavier shares his tough struggle towards stability

Previously a self-proclaimed victim of his own head, Greg has been diagnosed with Bipolar disorder and is on the Autism spectrum.

10 years ago, the now nutritionist and Wim Hof instructor went on a journey to take control of his mind, discovering breathing techniques and cold-water therapy, which he says gave him a level of peace he hadn't experienced before.

What some people describe as subtle triggers, could lead Greg's mind down a vicious path.

"For me, my brain runs, and it runs... and it runs..." Greg told

At age 21 everything changed for Greg, after he tried to take his own life.

"When I was 21 I had a mental breakdown and attempted suicide.

"I ended up in the... let's call it the traditional Irish mental health system. So it was anti-depressants, mood stabilizers, tranquilizers, all that sort of stuff."

His experience sent him on a quest to try and take back control of his mind. That's when he learned about the Wim Hof Method; a set of exercises which include breathing techniques and cold exposure. The founder, Wim Hof, claims the method has positive mental and physical benefits, and the practice has since become a worldwide phenomenon.

"He (Wim Hof) did an extended interview; he was talking about how you could change your brain chemistry in terms of boosting serotonin." Greg told

Greg would book himself on a Winter expedition to learn the method, and would later become an instructor.

"From the outside it definitely looks like madness, but every morning when we did the breathing exercises I felt this sense of calm...

"Every day that sense seemed to last a bit longer.

"When it came to the cold side of things... I remember, the fourth or the fifth time I got into the ice bath, I shut my mind down completely; probably for the first time in my life.

"It was a really significant moment for me, because along with the breathing exercises it really hammered home this idea that I could control my brain, as opposed to my brain controlling me."

Greg describes the cold exposure as a form of "forced mindfulness", giving the person experiencing it no choice but to be in the present moment.

Although Greg has been off medication for nearly 10 years, he said he would advise those in a similar situation to use techniques like The Wim Hof Method as a complementary form of treatment, as opposed to using as a replacement for medication. He also recommends guidance from a certified medical professional.

"It was very risky and I do acknowledge that now, I was very young and perhaps at the time I didn't grasp how risky it was (coming off the medication)."

Later this year Greg will have been off his medication for a decade.

Along with lifestyle and diet changes, the Wim Hof Method has helped Greg greatly in getting to where he is now.

"I'm very stable, and this allows me to do my work. I have my partner, I have my dogs, I can see my friends, I can do all those things...

"At the same time though I'm always mindful, and I make sure that if I do have a wobble over a couple of days that I slow down and check in with myself.

"It is an ongoing process, but if you told me 10 years ago I could be in this place now, I would never believe that I could be here."