• Health & Fitness

How ocean swimming benefits your mental health

Ocean swimming is much more than a form of exercise, there are also numerous mental health benefits, including these top five.

For many of us, the ocean is a place to escape the chaos of the world, it’s just you and the water.

From the first submersion under the salt water and that first long stroke you take, you can feel the stress just wash off your body as the water rushes over your skin. 

Ocean swimming is much more than a form of exercise, for many, it’s a stress reliever, a way to start your day with a clear mind and boosted mood. 

Here are five ways ocean swimming benefits your mental health.

1. Swimming releases endorphins

When swimming, your brain is prompted to release feel-good chemicals called endorphins. 

These endorphins help your body deal with pain and stress, these compounds can also alleviate pain, promote positivity and boost one’s sense of mood and wellbeing. 

Research has found that regularly getting these feel-good hormones flowing can have deep mental health benefits and can help your body better respond to stress in general life.

Combine this with the sound of waves crashing, the smell of the saltwater and your daily dose of vitamin D and you’ve got a natural swimmer’s high right there!

2. Regulates breathing

Swimming gives you the ability to regulate your breathing; this can help when you are feeling stressed, anxious or panicked.

When you feel this way, you tend to take shallower more rapid breaths which can lead to hyperventilation or even a panic attack. 

Swimming allows you to use a breathing technique that promotes you to take enough air into the lungs which can help prevent these feelings and panic attacks. 

When you get into a situation where you feel stressed, anxious or panicked, you can practice the breathing techniques you use while swimming, this makes you inhale and exhale evenly, instantly lowering blood pressure, eliminating toxins, promoting a state of relaxation and helping your mental health. 

Read more: Bondi Lifeguard Dean Gladstone and the breath of life for ocean swimmers

3. Boosts blood flow which helps mental capacity

Studies have shown that immersing yourself in water during exercise helps increase blood flow to the brain.

Increased flow to the brain can help memory, mood, cognitive function and concentration.

Research has also shown that swimming can help reverse brain damage caused by stress through hippocampal neurogenesis, which is the creation of new neurons in the brain.

The hippocampus is an area of the brain that helps control memory, emotion regulation and learning. When you swim the hippocampus can grow, increasing the brain’s oxygen supply which can help combat mental illnesses and stress-associated disorders.

4. Reduces stress and induces relaxation state

The movement of the water around you and the flow of the currents in the ocean can help the body enter a relaxing meditative state which helps reduce built-up stress in the body.

Swimming in the ocean can also help take your mind off your worries by demanding your focus on the task at hand which is one stroke after another and your breathing pattern.

Plus, there is nothing better than ocean swimming while admiring the beautiful coastlines surrounding you and enjoying the calming effects of the ocean.

5. Creates ‘Blue Mind’

‘Blue Mind’ is a research subject that suggests being in or around the water will set your body and mind free, creating calm and peace within.

Water makes up seventy per cent of our bodies and studies suggest our brains immediately have a positive response when we are near water.

Dr Wallace J. Nicols, author of ‘Blue Mind’ says, “being in the water provides a long list of benefits for our minds and body, including lowering stress and anxiety, increasing an overall sense of well being and happiness, lower heart rate and breathing rate and reducing PTSD and anxiety disorders.”

This means ocean swimming regularly can increase the neurochemical in your brain making you happy, healthier and less stressed.

  • Written by Ocean Swims on 1 February 2022
  • (Updated on 3 August 2023)

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