I had always seen people swimming in the sea when I used to live in the lovely seaside town of Deal. I used to wonder each morning as I drove past the seafront, ‘gosh, how cold must that be! These people must be crazy… or am I missing something?’. After a few years went by and 2020 happened, something magical came with it. I went on holiday in Cornwall which was very unexpected and last minute due to all of the changes that Covid-19 brought with it.
Cornwall is a truly beautiful place and I was so lucky to be staying in an apartment which overlooked a small cove. It was a two minute walk from the door of the apartment to the ocean. I spent hours watching people surf, swim, laugh, play and enjoy the sea. One evening, after watching a documentary on the Wim Hof method, I was inspired to give sea swimming a go! I was excited, nervous, apprehensive and determined to swim no matter how cold it was. On came the swimsuit and I walked down to the beach. Without hesitation I just went for it, as I knew that if I made a big deal of it then it wouldn’t happen at all (it may also have had something to do with the amount of people still on the beach that would have seen me dancing around!). Oh my! It was exhilarating! Yes, it was cold, but I did it and I felt so good afterwards. My mind felt clearer, my body less tight and a sense of peacefulness, being at one with my surroundings. The ocean is wild and with its wildest nature, I was able to let go and be free.
There is ongoing research to suggest that cold water swimming may reduce stress, boost the immune system, improve circulation and more. So what is it about cold water swimming?
I started to think more about the Wim Hof documentary I watched and the science behind cold water, breathing techniques and the influence it can have on your autonomic nervous system. Wim Hof (2015) explains that his method consists of three components – Breathing Exercises, Training Mindset and Gradual Exposure to the cold. You can read more on this via his website https://www.wimhofmethod.com.
Now, I’m not suggesting that you start the Wim Hof method, I know I certainly haven’t, but it is a very interesting read which may spark your intrigue to give sea swimming a try. If you have any underlying health conditions always speak to your GP first and ensure you spend a short amount of time in the sea and take it slowly, increasing only when you feel comfortable. Whitstable organise a Mental Health swim where you can come together to support each other whilst enjoying a dip in the ocean, which I think is fantastic. Even if you’re not from Whitstable and want to start a swim meet near you, check out www.mentalhealthswims.co.uk. Sea swimming has become a regular event for me now and I’m enjoying finding lots of different places to take my next dip in the ocean.
To sum up my sea swimming adventure, I chose the word ‘Bravery’……
We are always stronger and more resilient than we imagine to be and sometimes doing things that make us feel uneasy or at first intimidated, can sometimes turn out to be exhilarating and surprising. There was a strong sense of community and coming together on the beach the day I chose to try sea swimming for the first time, something that is so intrinsic to our way of life and needed in order for us to feel safe, included, accepted and to belong. Swimming in the sea allows my mind and body to relax, feeling held by the ocean and reminding me that I am so much stronger and more resilient than I realise, or at times forget.
Founder of ikigai Holistic
Hof, Isabelle. (2015) The Wim hof method explained. Wimhofmethod.com
Photo Credit – @elliscollins Gylly Beach (Cornwall)