Many people find swimming to be an excellent way to spend your time. Learning how to swim takes some time, and sometimes it can be challenging to find time for this leisure activity. However, swimming is an enjoyable way to relax and unwind, especially if you want to escape the everyday hustle of modern life. Some people even consider swimming as effective as a session with a therapist.
However, the benefits of swimming for mental health go beyond gut feelings. Swimming is scientifically proven to help people cope with stress. This activity also protects people from some mental health disorders, such as depression. Swimming is an unorthodox way to relieve anxiety, but it works. To understand why, as well as how to maximize the benefits of swimming, you must first know how stress works within the body.
What Stress Does To You
Stress comes from the fight-or-flight response. This mechanism steps in when people are vulnerable to potential dangers, such as predators or other enemies. The fight-or-flight response allows people to detect threats more acutely and to react more quickly, increasing their survival rates.
The fight-or-flight response continues to exist even in the modern world, and it continues to serve limited roles for people. In general, this response makes people more stressed.
Stress raises heart rate and blood pressure. When prolonged, it can wear out the cardiovascular system, leading to a higher risk of heart failure and high blood pressure. Stress also impairs the immune system, making people more vulnerable to colds and other more severe illnesses. Finally, chronic stress leads to lower career performance and decreased levels of happiness.
How Swimming Can Help
Physical activity is one of the optimum ways to cope with stress. It helps reduce the adverse effects of stress by strengthening the cardiovascular system. Exercise also spurs the release of endorphins, which are neurotransmitters that bring about positive moods. Improvements in mood directly combat the negative emotions resulting from stressors.
Swimming helps because it is an enjoyable way to incorporate physical activity while still being able to relax. Many swimming strokes use several large muscle groups, making it a very engaging activity.
Additionally, swimming is an excellent way to bond with other people. Positive social interactions are another way to combat stress. Social interactions are generally positive experiences for many people, resulting in the same release of endorphins that make physical activity enjoyable. Also, strengthening social bonds allows people to build secure social support systems that they can use as a source of advice and camaraderie.
Making Swimming Work For Your Mental Health
To get the most out of swimming, try to make it a regular activity. You can use it as a weekly respite from the hectic workweek. You can also go out for a swim near the end of each month as a reward for a productive and meaningful month. The point here is to have swimming as something to look forward to, motivating you to persevere through hard moments in expectation of a reward.
An ideal frequency seems to be one swim session every two to three weeks. According to a survey conducted for around three million British people, 43% of those who swam this frequently felt that swimming helps make them happier.
Another tip is to try to swim with loved ones. You can also try to be more sociable during your swim and to make new friends. Many swimming activities, such as synchronized swimming, inherently encourage people to bond with each other. Others, such as swimming races, give participants a chance to bond with like-minded people.
In any case, all of these methods capitalize on the revitalizing effects of social interaction on mental health. In most cases, you’ll be able to find new friends and strengthen existing friendships.
Finally, make sure that you can stick to your habits. The benefits of swimming become more apparent when you do the activity regularly. Sometimes, the motivation for swimming might not be enough to convince you to go for a swim, especially during particularly stressful or tiring days. In these cases, it helps to have other methods to talk yourself into swimming.
For example, you can sign up for swimming classes. These classes may have a significant cost, and it becomes harder to skip the event because you’ll feel like you’re wasting your money. You can also look for pools or other swimming places that are near your commute, to make it less of an inconvenience for you to commit to your swimming classes.