It’s no surprise that just being near the water; be it seaside, river or local reservoir, has a calming effect which in turn benefits mental wellbeing. With World Mental Health Day coming up on October 10th, perhaps it’s time we all prioritised our mental health and sought out new ways to give our mood a lift. Here are just some ways that a dip in the water can do just that!
1. Releases Endorphins
Endorphins are the feel good hormones that exercises such as a swim session can help to release in your brain. The nervous system produces endorphins to enable us to cope with pain and stress; these hormones promote feelings of positivity and an overall sense of wellbeing.
2. Stress Buster
Some studies have shown that swimming may help with the treatment of stress. Studies carried out on rats have found that new brain cells grew in the swimming group, whereas when subjected to chronic stress, cells in the brain appeared to break down. It is also important to note that being around the colour blue is said to have a calming effect and that the motion and breathing action of swimming can be seen as meditative.
3. A Healthy Brain
A healthy blood flow is essential in keeping your brain in tip top condition; supplying it with enough oxygen and glucose to function. A study has found that just by being in water, blood flow to the brain can be increased.
Swimming can also improve cognitive function, which includes learning and memory, as it supports the production of brain-derived neurotropic factor. BDNF helps repair brain cells and supports the growth of new ones. Therefore swimming can improve the brain’s neuroplasticity, which is its ability to adapt and change to new experiences and situations.
4. The Great Outdoors
It is no secret that being out in nature has benefits to mental health. Whether that means hiking, forest bathing or going for a dip in natural water, the change of scenery and the peace found by being in the great outdoors is ideal for calming anxious thoughts. As human beings we also are predisposed to reconnect with and be closer to nature. This is known as ‘Biophilia’ or ‘love of life’ and nurturing this need to connect will do us good.
Recently a study has also found that cold water swimming in particular may be an effective treatment against depression. The study suggests that using one form of stress such as the shock of cold water should help the body to react better when confronted with stress associated with depression and anxiety.
5. Social Swimming
Of course you do not need people to go swimming with you, it’s perfectly fine to swim alone and enjoy your own company. However, you could seek out swimming groups, tours and events to meet new people and make friends. When we interact with others in a group, we feel the bonds of human connection which encourage a sense of belonging and community, forming a social support system for ourselves. Communicating with others also helps stimulate the brain and in turn protects against cognitive decline.
With poor mental health being a growing concern in today’s society, at least we know that there are steps out there to improve our own sense of wellbeing both physically and mentally. Raising your own mental health awareness and that of your friends and family this World Mental Health Day is just the start, and who knows, swimming may be your next step to a better state of mind.