Wild Swimming & Mental Health

Wild Swimming & Mental Health
Authored By Sybil Indeba

Wild swimming and cold-water therapy have long stirred up the health and wellness industry with wellness gurus such Wim Hof advocating the endless physical and mental benefits, but what exactly is wild swimming and how exactly can it help you? Wild swimming is the act of swimming in an open body of water such as the sea, a lake, or a river.

Your first thought may be why on earth should I leave the warmth and safety of an indoor pool? Although indoor chlorinated pools provide the assurance that you are not bathing in a cocktail of water borne diseases, water treated with chlorine can cause irritation to the skin and eyes. By virtue of chlorine treatment, you may often feel an itchy or burning sensation in your eyes or on your skin after a swim at your local leisure centre.

Wild swimming not only exposes you to natural elements, such as mud, which is indeed good for the skin, but you also gain the benefit of immersing yourself in nature’s own chlorine free, freshwater pool. A Scientific Reports’ study showed that spending at least 120 minutes a week in nature is directly associated with reduced feelings of fatigue and anxiety. Additionally, cold water immersion is recognised as an effective stress therapy. As modern-day humans, we rarely face genuine life-threatening situations. Therefore, our primitive stress system tends to be hyperactive, oftentimes reacting to low level stressors such as traffic, work deadlines, a full mail inbox or even a funny look from a stranger. Exposing your body to the threat of ice-cold water every once in a while, and sending adrenalin rushing through your body lets you take control of your primitive sapiens instincts by differentiating real threat from minor inconveniences.

Cold water immersion is also considered a meditative practice, taking control of your breathing, timing and technique is all part of the experience. In an interview with Joe Rogan, former British water polo player – Ross Edgley talks about his experience of becoming the first man to swim around Great Britain. Edgley highlighted the importance of cardiorespiratory fitness not only in order to swim great lengths in open water but for better efficiency across all his training. Swimming is a form of steady cardio training meaning; you maintain a steady high heart rate over a long period of time (30 minutes – 1 hour). By doing this you not only improve your endurance ability but also gain a fast heart rate recovery. Incorporating cardiorespiratory training into your fitness routine will boost the effectiveness of all your training (i.e. muscular strength training). After a month of incorporating cardiorespiratory training, Joe Rogan highlighted the drastic improvement in his own endurance while kickboxing, as part of his Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) training.

Like Joe Rogan and Ross Edgley, you may also be a training athlete yourself and for many athletes, inflammation is a frequent hitch that needs to be dealt with. Cold water immersion is a highly effective method for combating inflammation, which is usually a result of worn and sore muscles. A behavioural neurobiology study found that long term inflammation is linked with depression due to an increased level of cytokines which are small proteins that can influence brain activity. Furthermore, the British Medical Journal ruled open water swimming as an effective method to treat major depressive disorder, and it does not stop there. Wild swimming offers other mental health benefits such as reduced feelings of anxiety and even boosting your ‘happy hormones’.  The vastness and power of a large body of water creates an environment that diminishes the scale of your worries and troubles, in other words – your full mail box does not seem as big-of-a-deal when you are in what feels like a bottomless pool of water. And in terms of ‘happy hormones’? The European Journal of Applied Physiology proved that cold water immersion can boost dopamine levels by 530% - that is a whole lot of happy hormones.

So now that you are sold on wild swimming, where can you do it? Wild swimming (book and app) is brimming with all the best spots to give wild swimming a go, whether you are based in Scotland, England, or Wales there is bound to be a sublime freshwater pool near you. But if you are not yet ready for your open water adventure, there are other natural remedies that can combat many ailments from the comfort of your own home. Cannabidiol (CBD) is a natural hemp therapy that has been scientifically proven to control and reduce inflammation, just like cold-water therapy. CBD has also shown the ability to alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety by boosting neuroprotective properties, aiding your mental health. Pulse CBD offers you (or even your pets) a range of products from CBD tinctures to CBD bath bombs, only made from the highest quality hemp extract. So, until you take the plunge, why not discover CBD here at Pulse CBD.

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