DOES SCUBA DIVING AFFECT MENTAL HEALTH
By Oyegoke Motolani Oluwakemi
This article represents the views of the author. The article has not been fact checked by myself, the Board of Directors or any member of the USA Dive Club.
Copyright Disclaimer under section 107 of the Copyright Act of 1976, allowance is made for “fair use” for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, education and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing.
Presently, the concept of mental health is under investigation. What we know for sure, regardless of your age, size, or societal status — it can affect anyone. Therefore, it’s tasking for medical professionals to give concise advice on this issue. The ideal mental health involves a natural ability to live out individual potential; this includes facing the usual stress associated with being human, productivity, and daily work. The ideal mental health is not limited to being productive; it involves being socially balanced, professional, and socially engaged, etc.
Mental health levels can be described based on a spectrum ranging from healthy to adverse or ill. Hence, there’s usually a variation — short-term and long-term mental illnesses. Still, the effects may vary in individuals such that a person with a poor mental health condition like anxiety disorder could be fully functional in their daily lives. To cushion the effects of adverse mental health, professionals advise socializing. In adherence to such opinions, people embrace physical interactions with the environment, and other individuals, thus embracing scuba diving.
Scuba diving does not take place in a natural human environment, so taking precautions is necessary. While the thrill of diving into the water brings out people’s adventurous side, divers usually overlook their mental health. However, due to the impact outdoor activities have on an individual’s overall well-being, people with mental health concerns naturally embrace the activity.
A study conducted by the University of Sheffield’s Medical School supports the claim that diving impacts levels of anxiety, depression, and social functioning. The report also claims that scuba diving can provide several therapeutic benefits to improve social dysfunction and depression. The study sheds light on scuba diving as a potential therapeutic aid, while demonstrating the positive impacts it poses. How does it work?
Anyone who recognizes that they have mental health challenges must have spoken to a professional and counselor. It is, therefore, not uncommon to receive recommendations of participating in physical activities.
However, for many people, running and other kinds of physical activity turn out boring. It doesn’t take too long for discouragement to set in, and so, physical activity comes to an abrupt end. Local sports or Zumba classes make nice alternatives, but you tend to expend more energy.
Scuba diving is essentially moving slowly underwater. As you begin to dive, you put your muscles into work by swimming and slight body adjustments. But, in the end, you’re doing something that improves your mental health.
Breathing is the core of diving, just as it is for living. It happens instinctively, so that movement in water is seamless. What you’re doing in the real sense is focusing on your breath and its rhythm. Diving has more merits than demerits. All divers actively engage their minds in the activity while underwater. They make clear decisions and effectively manage events. None of this is possible without involving the mind.
Since breathing is the biggest part of diving, you learn to focus your breathing by inhaling and exhaling in a meditative way. Meditation is a fundamental aspect of yoga which comes in handy and helps your mind retain calm. When underwater, you’re surrounded by a peaceful kind of calm and silence that allows you to flow with the current environment. Your mind presently drifts away from external concerns so that you can enjoy your space and sport.
A major symptom of adverse mental health conditions is the affected person’s inability to talk to people or maintain social interaction. Networking for such people is almost impossible because they tend to hide and isolate themselves. Sometimes, changing environments is tough since it equals a potential association with new people.
Scuba diving is an easy way to come out of this state. It brings people of different races, classes, and calibers together without fear or judgment. Regardless of where you’re from or when you’re diving, you speak one language — the language of the sea. The amazing part is that you don’t have to say a word. There is a common ground and an avenue for people to bond and enjoy the sport.
Socializing while underwater is easier with the various diving hand signals people use to communicate. Furthermore, it excludes the anxiety that often comes with speaking to people because you only need to communicate with a partner. Generally, diving is done with someone else, so you find yourself with them. Since you only need to ease into the conversation, you soon find yourself talking about other stuff and sharing without any pressure. Additionally, as these interactions grow, you begin to trust people more
The Marine life encounter
If you have ever watched fishes in an aquarium, you will agree that there’s a feeling of satisfaction with that simple act. Life underwater brings a calming effect to the heart and brain. The burst of colors and different species of aquatic life brings you delight and calm. Colors naturally lift the human mood by increasing serotonin and dopamine levels produced in the brain. Both neurotransmitters stimulate happy chemicals in the brain, hence improving the mood.
A kind of therapy
Scientists like Dr. J.C. Lilly, a neuro-physiologist, agree that water therapy is both relaxing and rejuvenating. The flotation therapy proves that weightlessness is a way to put the body in a state of total relaxation. Since scuba diving is akin to submerging the body in water, it helps clear the mind and release stress.
The human body comprises 70% water, the same percentage of water covering the earth’s surface. Saltwater opens the pores on the skin and enhances the absorption of essential water minerals. So, in addition to aiding mental health, scuba diving looks great on the skin too.
Although the weather conditions of the location you use for your diving activity may be subject to peculiar changes, the struggle against any water body improves your strength. Often, divers move through currents and avoid collision against water reefs. These build physical fitness and improve endurance. The water workout helps your mind stay sharp and ready. Also, it helps the muscle and joints.
Scuba diving is relaxing and encompassing. It fosters self-reliance and therefore, it is good for individuals with mental health challenges. So, does scuba diving affect mental health? Yes, and positively too. It’s time to explore the numerous advantages of scuba diving. If you intend to go all out and embrace something new, scuba diving is a great idea. I recommend you try the waters of Miami and have all preparations taken care of beforehand. Here’s a chance to sharpen your senses and retain your vitality while having fun too. Enjoy! Happy Diving!