Open Water Swimming & Mental Health

Mental Health

You have probably already seen the trend of open water swimming that seems to have taken over Northern Irish shores the past year. People are wading into our freezing waters, no matter the season or weather. You’ve maybe even stopped to watch a group of people cheer each other on as they build up the confidence to each finally take the plunge. Perhaps you have asked yourself the same question we all have, why put yourself through it?

Open sea swimming is not only great for your physical health, but it has many mental health benefits too and you don’t need to be an expert to take part in it! Just as long as you do your research on where is safe to swim and how to keep yourself as safe as possible, you can start with little dips in the sea and build up from there! Check out the many benefits of open water swimming below:

1. Exercise

Swimming is one of the best and most accessible forms of exercise that you can do for your body! Whether you're 18 or 80, swimming engages almost every major muscle group and is a great form of exercise to build your strength, improve your fitness and benefits your cardiovascular system too. Swimming is also gentle on your joints, aches, and any injuries, so it is a great way to ease into exercise and reduce tension in your body. Being active and exercising is an important step to maintaining and improving your wellbeing, and benefits your mental health as well as your physical health.

2. Connecting with your Body

Open water has soothing properties and can help you relax your mind and body. The calming nature of the water can help you disconnect from daily life and reconnect with your body. This allows you to be in the moment, to focus on yourself and pay attention to your mind and body. Swimming is also a great exercise for focusing on your breathing and becoming more aware of how you breathe is a helpful mindfulness technique.

3. Mood & Happy Hormones

Immersing yourself in cold water increases the production of mood-elevating hormones like dopamine, serotonin and beta-endorphins. These happy hormones help you feel more positive and are important for maintaining your wellbeing and happiness. You will also feel the effects of these feel-good hormones after your swim, as your body experiences the post-exercise euphoria. People who swim regularly have been shown to have reduced levels of stress and anxiety, attributed to the endorphins released during and after swimming.

4. Reduced Anxiety & Stress

Studies have shown that repeated exposure to cold water has been shown to increase physical and mental resilience. By having regular exposure to open water swimming, you begin to develop a physical resilience to the cold temperature. The shock of the cold water stimulates your body and sends your brain sensory information, helping you adapt to the cold environment.

As the cold stimulates your body, it also stimulates your brain! As a response to the cold, your brain releases the stress hormone cortisol. The more you immerse yourself in cold water, it allows your brain to become used to the cold and lowers the levels of stress hormones. This will not only help you adapt to the water but can also help you respond to other stressors in your life and help reduce stress and anxiety.

5. Social

Swimming is a great exercise that you can do by yourself, but it is also a great way to socialise with others outdoors and join other open sea swimming communities. Whether it is practising swimming together, taking part in a challenge, or visiting your local beach - it can be a great way to meet new people! The opportunity to socially connect is key to improving and maintaining your mental health and wellbeing, and a great way to share positive experiences with others.

6. Connecting with Nature

Being in nature has been proven to have a positive impact on your mood and mental wellbeing. Spending time in the open sea can help foster a more positive mindset, and help you detox from the busyness of digital life. It allows you to take notice of your senses and helps you stay in the present moment, all as you exercise! Try open sea swimming this summer and experience the mental health benefits that come with being in the water.

Mental Health Useful Resources

Inspire Workplaces (one of the new names for Carecall and EAP Consultants), is a leading...
These five directories list the names, numbers and web addresses (where applicable) of...
The EA currently have 162 staff on our Mental Health First Aider network. The Mental...
Clinical hypnotherapy is the use of hypnosis for the treatment and alleviation of a...
We’ve gathered useful advice, information and help for young people aged 8-25 and those...
AMH Works provide specialised mental wellbeing training and consultancy to tackle...
Mood Matters Young People programme is aimed at 14-18 year olds and gives them knowledge...
This programme is a six week training programme for groups of adults and focuses on...
This idea is a walk in the park. It really is that simple, post a news item to see how...
Positive Minds for Premature Parents supports families of premature babies to develop and...
This supportive behaviour change programme motivates individuals who are ready to make...
AWARE also offers an online support group service. The groups provide an opportunity to...
The British Red Cross is helping people connect with their local communities, meet new...
MindWise are proud to be the only membership-led mental health organisation in Northern...
This is a six-session programme using Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) concepts – the...
AMH New Horizons provides a comprehensive programme of specialist training in: Personal...
We have a wealth of experience in delivering training and consultancy services to a wide...
WiseTalking is a pilot Talking Therapies service for children and young people who are...
A project for men aged 50+ to share skills, socialise and connect with their wider...
The Community Care and Support Service is open to individuals over the age of 18 years...
Our Talking Therapies Practice offers individuals a range of psychological interventions...
Helping employees become more resilient, by giving them the skills to reframe negative...
Counselling is a form of talking therapy that allows you to speak openly about your...
From books and magazines to local history resources, Libraries NI has a host of fabulous...
A partnership, led by AMH, who worked with 8 leading charities to improve mental health...
Bloom is a UK-wide programme which supports young people’s mental health resilience,...
You must download the Libby app to continue to access the eMagazine and eNewspaper...
Stress doesn’t just make you feel bad – it can also be bad for your health. The good news...
Compassion Focused Therapy (CFT), developed by Professor Paul Gilbert OBE, is a...
Sourcing and supporting employment opportunities, training and/or voluntary placements...
Action Mental Health is one of the ChatPal Project Team Members working to develop and...
This is aimed at the over 55’s and is delivered to groups in community settings. The...
There are a number of health campaigns throughout the year to raise awareness of...
This is delivered to the general adult population, including those affected by depression...
First aid as we know it is the help given to an injured person before medical treatment...
Well mind is a workshop which focuses on recognising the triggers of stress and the...
Our support groups offer a safe space for people aged 18+ to share experiences of anxiety...
AMH New Life Counselling provides high quality counselling services and is part of Action...
AMH Promote provides opportunities for adults with a learning disability to be socially...
This is delivered to expectant mothers & parents of babies under 3 years of age. It...
This includes: Raising awareness of depression and Aware NI services at a wide range of...
AMH EveryBODY aims to promote greater understanding and awareness of eating disorders. We...
Back to Life, Back to Normality is a free 12-week mental health programme delivered by...
Beyond Bricks is Lego® Based Play that uses a 'recovery to discovery' approach to enhance...
Tailored activities to support positive mental health and emotional wellbeing. MensSana,...
Belfast Resource Centre offers many opportunities including social and leisure activities...
Anxiety can affect anyone at any time, however, students often experience additional...
It is estimated that the overall prevalence of mental health conditions in Northern...
Free access to eBooks, audiobooks and eMagazines - available to download on your device...
Supporting veterans at risk of suicide across Northern Ireland. Exposure to line of duty...
MindWise is delighted to offer employers an opportunity to train their staff as Mental...
Since 2010 Action Mental Health has been successfully delivering Chronic Pain/Conditions...
Libraries NI can provide a free Homecall service to your home if you have significant...
Link & Learns are bite size, topical learning sessions for your employees, delivered...
CBT involves examining your thoughts, feelings and behaviour patterns, and working out...
Be Mindful is an online course that uses mindfulness techniques like meditation,...
The OUR Generation project is a Peace IV funded project that provides a unique...
Our team of facilitators have extensive knowledge and experience in the field of Mental...
Advanced Diploma in Mental Health and Wellbeing Coaching This virtual training programme...
Mindfulness is a form of meditation with its roots in Buddhism. It helps you develop...
Everyone’s mental health and emotional well-being is important and many different issues...
SuperBetter is a tool created by game designers to help you build resilience and get...
Fabulous! Is a motivational app that uses challenges to help build physically and...
What's Up? can help you cope with anxiety, stress and feelings of depression. It has...
Guided meditations
Clear Fear is an app developed for teenage mental health charity Stem4 which uses the...
Support to resist self-harm
Boost your happiness and create a kinder world while doing it with the Action for...
Self-Help for Anxiety Management (SAM) offers a range of self-help methods to help you...
It’s an easy to follow programme known the world over, and perfect for those new to...
Learn to manage negative thoughts and look at problems differently
Moodpath: Depression and Anxiety is a written mood journal that uses progress reports and...
Personalised Exercise Plans
MoodMission helps you learn new and better ways of coping with low moods and anxiety...
Handle stress and anxiety on the go
MindShift CBT is a free self-help anxiety relief app, that helps you reduce worry, stress...
Guided meditations
Here2Help has been developed by a local initiative from people who want to make the range...
Active 10 is a free and easy to use walking app that tracks your walking and shows you...
Your Mind Plan offers practical ideas and advice to help you boost and maintain your mental wellbeing. Answer the quick 5-question quiz and the Every Mind Matters widget will give you 5 tailored actions to help you feel more in control, improve your sleep, deal with stress and anxiety, and boost your mood – as well as the option to easily swap any actions and to save the whole plan via email.

Mental Health Helplines & Web Chats

Samaritans
Action Mental Health
Association for Post-Natal Illness Helpline
Aware NI - Support Groups
Aware NI - Online Support Groups
Mind - Side by Side Online Community