We Talk Ice Baths, Chess And Other Daily Rituals With Alex Hayes
I first hung out with surf, zen influencer Alex Hayes a few years back when we were both travelling through South Africa. And when I say ‘hung out’, I mean it literally – the guy made me jump off a bridge with him.
Like, I get it. Bungee jumping is a bonding experience. Everyone should jump at least once in their lives. But he didn’t stop there, we followed that up with abseiling Table Mountain, almost getting eaten by a leopard in Kruger and surfing J Bay (well, he surfed J Bay while I paddled the sharky shallows).
This might sound all adventurous and fantastical, but adventurous and fantastical is kind of Alex’s schtick. He’s about living life to the max, in the least corny way possible. Think YOLO but make it mindful. And this genuinely positive approach to life is exactly what's garnered him a combined social media following of almost one million. It’s also why he quickly became one of my favourite humans.
I mean, this is a guy who wakes up every morning and tells himself – “today is the best day of my life”. According to him, starting his day with this kind of affirmation totally switches up his mindset. “There’s a saying that I like, which goes ‘the act of confidence comes before the feeling of confidence’ – and that totally applies to happiness,” he says.
With that in mind, we sat him down to chat daily rituals and getting out of the right side of bed:
What’s the first thing you did this morning when you woke up?
“I played chess! I play chess every morning with my roommate. We’re super well matched and it’s just really addicting, the games play over and over in my mind. I like that it makes me think five steps ahead.
“I don’t take my eyes off the board the entire time, mainly because my competitive side comes out [laughs]. But also because it’s basically a meditation. You’re thinking ahead but also staying really present."
Talk us through your daily rituals.
“I get up and always start my day with a bit of Wim Hof breathwork to get psyched, maybe jump in the ice bath to really get going. I like to get some reading in, a self-development book for sure. Right now I’m reading about Ikigai and loving it.
“I’ll work out at some point to get the bloody flowing and meditate too. Then I try to do real work and fit in some adventure – do something spontaneous that makes me happy.”
Why ice baths?
“Because they suck, [laughs]. It’s true, they suck but over the course of generations we’ve built ourselves a comfortable little bubble, to the point where our bodies relax and stop performing at their most efficient.
“The ice bath ges our bodies and minds back into that instinctual survival state. It gives the mind something to conquer. I try and stay in there for anywhere between 1 and 10 minutes. My freezer sits at -4, so somedays it’s hard. Like, really hard. The most important part is just getting in, anything after that is a bonus. Again, it sucks and it’s cold but it’s also really rewarding.
“I will say this though – I’ve been doing it for three years and in those three years I don’t think I’ve gotten sick. And if I have, it’s been mild and super brief. These ice baths really help build up your immune system, I think. But even if it’s just psychosomatic – something is working.”
What’s the most important thing you do everyday for your own mental well-being?
“Hands down it’s something that I enjoy. Something that makes me happy. That’s what’s most important for our mental health. For me, that might be getting in the ocean, going for a surf or jumping off a cliff [laughs]. I’m lucky and grateful that what I enjoy most is being active.”
You’re someone who values positivity and you’re always trying to bring more positive energy into other people’s lives – is that something you wake up and find easy to do or do you have to psych yourself into it?
“100 per cent I have to psych myself into it some days. But like everything, it’s a perspective shift. I psych myself into it by doing my morning routine. But other times, if I’m feeling shit, I just allow myself to feel shit.
“Normally when I do that, I ride it out and 30 minutes later I feel better. Or I just get bored of it. And then other times, I have to metaphorically hit my mind with a shoe to switch up my thought patterns.”
I heard you flip a coin to make daily decisions, is that true?
“[Laughs] Yep! I’ve been doing it for years. I’ve got a side project called The Daily Living and we’ve got a coin that’s been made for decision making. If I’m considering doing something, I just flip it. I don’t always do what it tells me, but I use it more intuitively. Like whatever the coin lands on, I intuitively have a gut reaction. Sometimes you just have to stop and listen when your intuition is screaming at you.”
What are you afraid of, Alex?
Oh, that’s a hard one. Probably of letting fear control me. Deep, right?