Respite. Resilience. Reasons to swim in the sea
This article was created by guest bloggers and entrepreneurs, Katherine Ferguson and Catherine Brown, who form the wonderful social enterprise, Seabirds.
At Seabirds some of us are heading into our 3rd winter of cold water swimming. We have all found it to be invaluable to our wellbeing and sense of balance. Time to re-visit what it does for us and why we keep doing it.
Reset – a bit like switching a computer off and on – you can enter the sea full of stress, anger, frustration and always leave it more serene. The bad mood may return later that day, week or month but for an amount of time you are reset. Sometimes it can feel as if we have faulty wiring in the brain, sparking with nowhere to go. It just needs the right synapse to connect to so the spark can continue on its journey rather than clogging up our brains with unhelpful thoughts. The sea jump starts the synapses – with the help of some happy hormones – and balance is restored in the brain.
Release – Getting into the cold water screaming and shouting is in itself a release. You can cry in the sea and no-one knows. All of the above is socially acceptable behaviour when you are in the water. On dry land you may invite some strange looks when you let out a guttural cry, squeal with delight or sink into shuddering sobs. But in the sea, with a group of like minded swimmers, it is entirely acceptable. There is literally nothing better than letting out all of that pent up anger, frustration and anxiety in the safe environment our wild swimming community provides. Physical activity also releases happy hormones called endorphins and the cold water can create an adrenaline rush.
Recalibrate – being in the sea, whatever the weather, whatever the conditions, gives you the chance to think. And not just think "what am I going to cook for dinner", or "how far am I going to swim today" but really think. It is an opportunity to change the way you do or think about something. The idea of Seabirds was born of the sea. Away from the life's chatter we had the chance to think, and we thought more people need to get in the sea and experience this head space. The clarity that can flow with the tidal stream is astounding. You can get in the sea after an argument for example and come out feeling like you cannot really remember what was making you so cross. Always works.
Relax – sounds easy. Not for many of us. How many of us make enough time for ourselves and truly take 'time out'? We know we need to but we do not prioritise our own wellbeing enough. Making a daily habit of heading down to the sea, spending time with like minded swim friends and feeling that sense of community combined with the joy and 'play' of the waves can make real relaxation a possibility while the rest of our daily lives are on hold even if just a while. Phone and work back on dry land for the time being while you mess about with friends in the water and have a laugh.
Respite – getting away from the day to day. No more so was this more necessary than in the modern day world. We are slaves to our phones, the instant, the immediate. An expectation that messages will be answered the moment it has been read. Images of perfect lives, in perfect homes with perfect families holidaying in perfect locations bombard our brains in every form of media. We have experienced a revolution starting in the sea that rejects the notion of always being available and living a more simple existence that is in tune with the tides. This revolution is gaining momentum and numbers are growing weekly as more people turn to community and nature for what they need to help keep afloat in daily life. Salted Wellbeing for the Many not the Few ;)
Resilience – if you swim year round, particularly in the sea and particularly in your own skins you build a ton of resilience. Dealing with the stress of the cold water builds up your ability to deal with stress out of it. When the ice cold water burns your skin but you continue to enter the water. When the winter waves look fierce and foreboding but you continue to enter the water. When the colour of the sea is a pissed off pewter giving off hostile vibes but you continue to enter the water. When you struggle to regulate your breathing as you submerge but you continue to enter the water. You become a water warrior. You are resilient.
For all these reasons, and the fact that it is FUN we swim in the sea! Join us for a swim or shop in our online Wild Swim Shop to support our work - getting more people into the sea so they can enjoy the health benefits discussed above.