Open Sea Swimming To Improve Your Mood
I am fortunate that I live near the sea, albeit a cold one being the English channel, but I know I am fortunate none the less. The only time I got to see the sea when I was younger was when we went out to the seaside, maybe a couple of times a year, or on holiday.
Open Sea swimming is common in the summer, we associate it with relaxation, fun water sports and general enjoyment. However, here in Jersey, I am always amazed at how people brave the cold of the sea in the winter, no matter the weather, it’s like a ritual they have to perform, something they must enjoy otherwise, why do it?
I was walking my two dogs on the beach recently and saw a lady brazenly walking across the car park with just her swimming costume on and her socks and crocks.
She looked determined like she was going there to conquer the sea, she wasn’t going to let the cold weather, wind or rain get in her way. I suspected that this was probably her routine, maybe she had been doing it for years, and this was something she did because it made her feel good.
I admired her for this, as all too often we make excuses for not going out of our comfort zone and I am certainly not brave enough to go out in my costume in October and brave the cold temperatures of the sea.
Benefits of Sea Swimming
So what is it about open sea swimming in the winter that is so alluring?
Of course, there is the obvious benefit of the exercise, anaerobic exercise to keep your heart healthy and low impact on the joints, compared to running. It’s also suitable for all ages, from the very young to the old.
There is the mental benefit that comes from sea swimming. As with any exercise, it increases our feel-good hormones, our endorphins, to make us feel good. It also enables us to switch off and just think about the exercise, in this case, it might be not thinking about how cold the sea is, it might be just enjoying looking at the scenery and being at one with nature.
We often think of the sea as somewhere we can relax and feel calm, and the sound of the waves crashing against the sand helps us to feel relaxed.
Some of us even build our homes near the sea, and go on holiday and look for hotels by the sea with a sea view, or at the very least around water, by the pool.
There is no doubt we are drawn to it, even since Roman times when Roman baths were common not just for bathing but for relaxation.
The blue colour of the sea can also help us feel calm, with people often choosing blue as their favourite colour.
Wallace J. Nichols, a marine biologist, believes that we all have a “blue mind” — as he puts it, “a mildly meditative state characterized by calm, peacefulness, unity, and a sense of general happiness and satisfaction with life in the moment” — that’s triggered when we’re in or near water.
He writes in his book “Blue Mind: How Water Makes You Happier, More Connected and Better at What You Do”.
He believes that being in water gives our brains a rest. He talks about the simplicity of the sound of water and how this is simpler than people’s voices, the noises from a city or the sound of music.
I don’t think you would get quite the same experience in terms of relaxation in the swimming pool unless you were in there alone. They are often noisy, but there would be a certain quietness when you were under the water I suppose.
Open Sea Swimming Versus the Gym for Relaxation
If you are stressed and have been busy at work all day perhaps the busy gym isn’t the best place to de-stress. The gym itself can be filled with lots of stimuli from tv screens to people talking, music, the noise of weights and gym machinery. Does this truly relax you?
There is a gym that overlooks the beach where I walk the dogs, I think one of the benefits must be that you can see the sea, but maybe stepping out of the gym, swimming in the sea away from all the stimuli is the real relaxation we need.
I can see the attraction of open sea swimming, being in the fresh air, just alone with your thoughts, and listening to the birds in the sky.
I saw the lady who was conquering the sea on my way back from the beach, and I asked her if she does a lot of sea swimming. She says she tries to do it every day, because it makes her feel good, being in the fresh air, she said, “the housework can wait for a rainy day”.
I think the next time I go to the beach, I might dip my toes in the sea, just to see how cold it is rather than go in headfirst 🙂
Do you go open sea swimming in the winter, I would love to hear about your experiences, and why you do it? please comment below.