Winter swimming breaks the autopilot
- Cold exposure breaks the autopilot in the brain, says Audun Myskja, senior physician and author of, among other things, "The art of finding peace" and "Tibetan rites".
Text: Tina Hage
Did you know that 90-99 percent of our thoughts and actions are pure repetition? Often our fears and negative feelings are based on past events, and what truths we created for ourselves at the time.
The autopilot can thus make you prejudiced and prevent you from taking new directions in life.
"Good habits are beneficial, but when we have problems, it is desirable to break up and reorganize the autopilot," says Myskja.
He explains that the understanding of the default mode network (the autopilot) is one of the most important breakthroughs in neuroresearch in recent years:
- We have a stream of thoughts in everyday life that run on autopilot. The autopilot is a commentator with a mixture of right and wrong perception of ourselves and the world - that "we think we know". Most of our thoughts and action patterns are pure repetition.
But how can cold exposure break the autopilot?
Myskja explains that when you are exposed to extreme cold, you change your physiology:
– The body redirects the circulation. This is how we gain access to other parts of the mind, a form of zeroing, he says, adding:
- Then it becomes easier to face new situations with an open mind and not let our prejudices prevent us from meeting what the situation needs.
- Presence is simply being able to reset what we think we know, so that we begin to observe the world and discover ourselves anew. Such a reset changes the psyche, says Myskja.
Myskja says that this has previously been instinctive in us humans:
—We think we invent new things in our time, but this is the good old Norwegian idea of hardening. In the 30s, my parents were treated with kneipp therapy when they were ill. On a small island in the sea gap where there was hardly any access to medical care, they were alternately exposed to heat and cold.
Today we know that such alternating bathing strengthens the immune system, and gives the psyche an opportunity to form new patterns.
He recommends starting slowly and building up gradually, preferably with a small impulse every day, and then a little more exposure two to three times a week.
Myskja is keen to spread this knowledge to everyone:
- Over time, this will have a long-term effect on the psyche. Exposure to cold and heat, combined with physical and mental exercise, should become a central part of mental health work, he states.