Mental Health Benefits of Sea Swimming
Let’s just start with the obvious, these times are tough. Some of us in the U.K have been in lockdown for what feels like an eternity, our children are home-schooling, and emotions are wild. We all live in hope that this will be a distant memory soon and life will go back to what we once knew as ‘normal’. So, let’s take a look at what we can do to help our children overcome some of the stresses placed upon them and ease back into society, happy and with the ability to stay happy.
Experts say swimming and especially open water swimming is so good for mental health. This blog focuses on children and adolescents but much of the information overlaps into adulthood.
What Issues are Associated with Poor Mental Health?
Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Mental health care is important at every stage of life.
Mental health disorders in children are generally defined as delays or disruptions in developing age-appropriate thinking, behaviours, social skills or regulation of emotions.
These problems are distressing to children and disrupt their ability to function well at home, in school or in other social situations.
The Proportion of children experiencing a mental health disorder has increased over the past three years from 1 in 9 to 1 in 6*. Most adolescent and adult mental illness can be traced back to childhood.
Indoor Time = Low Vitamin D
Staying indoors, we miss out on the health benefits of sunlight. Exposure to the sun is essential as it regulates our body’s internal clock, synthesises vitamin D, produces serotonin and helps improve our mood. Being inside for great lengths of time can build up anxiety and restlessness. Feeling restless can also make us become more irritable and upset. People can experience sleep troubles, appetite changes and a weakened immune system.
Green & Blue Spaces Boost Well-being
The benefits of being outdoors in nature in “green and blue spaces” can boost both your mental and physical wellbeing and that can improve your mood, reduce feelings of stress or anger, help you take time out and feel more relaxed, improve your physical health, improve your confidence and self-esteem.
So now we know that we all need to spend lots of time outdoors but here’s the fun bit – THE BLUE, Author Wallace J. Nichols published a book, ‘Blue Mind’ -The Surprising Science That Shows How Being Near, In, On, or Under Water Can Make You Happier, Healthier, More Connected, and Better at What You Do’. Here he discovers why many of us a so drawn to water, it’s a great read and I thoroughly recommend it.
Water Your Way to Great Health
Before we go to the mental gains let’s take a look at the physiological gains of swimming in general. There is cardiovascular health, children’s lung and heart condition significantly improves with swimming, strength and endurance increases as does flexibility and balance with regular swimming. Cold water like the sea can also have physiological benefits like increasing circulation, boosted immune systems, pain relief and reducing inflammation.
But what does swimming outdoors in the sea do for the child’s mind? Let’s DIVE right in…. and be prepared not to leave!
- A feeling of freedom, there are no walls, no lanes, no constraints (well, other than stopping your child swimming off into the distance). There is a general feeling of space and movement, to explore and to be free.
- A feeling of adventure, being wild and out in the elements. Diving beneath the surface, seeing what’s there. Collecting sand or stones from the seabed and throwing it back in. Adventure is only limited by imagination.
- The joy of moving water. Navigating the surf, riding a wave in with their body, ducking under the wave break. Feeling the effects of currents, using it to help them swim faster and trying to swim against it can be really exciting.
- Feeling accomplished. Grasping how to duck dive, how to breath so they don’t swallow water, how to sight to swim in the desired direction. When children succeed, they feel great.
- Empowered by learning skills to keep themselves safe in the water, like the RNLI message “float to live”. Knowing how to read the tides, how to call for help, when it is best to swim, when to avoid and telling their parents they should always be supervising.Feeling part of a group and making connections. Working as a team in open water swimming games, discussing techniques and helping one another out.
- Being creative, inventing games like our sea version of ROCK, PAPER, SCISSORS. Finding the best way to do something, creating a system.
- A feeling of Calm (more specifically when not being pounded by breaking waves). They can float, let the mind sink, be in the moment and relax. This works especially well in a game of floating sleeping lions.
So, there you have it, the benefits are not just wondrous they are also #lifesaving and I thoroughly encourage anyone and everyone to get involved, if not in the sea, a lake or river near you. Find your local open water coach or lifesaving group and get your children #swimming, better still join them, you will also feel amazing.
Here at Fish 2 Water in #Eastbourne, East Sussex, U.K, we have created Junior and Adult Open Water Sea Swimming and Open Water Confidence programs that are all inclusive and accessible to everyone. We have also created a tailored award scheme that rewards children for all their incredible milestones and accomplishments.
With summer 2021 fast approaching we hope for an even more successful year and have been approved by #Swimsafe, run by #SwimEngland and the #RNLI to offer free children’s sessions in Eastbourne for those who wouldn’t usually have access.
Keep your eyes peeled on our social’s and website for updates and events, register your interest and look for my next blog on Keeping your family safe in the sea.