Swimming And Depression

I wrote some time ago about my experience of depression and how swimming really helps.

A couple weeks ago I returned home from a medical emergency trip to the US for a family member there. It was the right move no doubt and well worth the price paid to go. But I did pay a price. The jet-lag, the emotional strain, the needs of my wonderful family at home in addition to all the work that piled up for me was a heavy burden to bear when I got back. Plus I live in a foreign land that puts a continuous mental load on the brain already, more than one living in his homeland may understand. Throw that on top of being a fairly strong introvert and I really just wanted to go hide away by myself for a few weeks!

Even with keeping all this in mind, I understandably struggled with depression. At least this time I could clearly see the circumstantial causes behind it. And I have the benefit of routine like of a diligent boat captain, to get up each day, survey his ship, and get to work keeping critical things going for everyone. But some of you can imagine how hard it was to draw strength to do anything more.

However, I know well the benefits of exercise in helping adjust brain chemistry – even better than anti-depressant medication can. I have been tremendously encouraged by this book: Spark – The Revolutionary Science of Exercise And The Brain, by John J. Ratey MD.

spark_-_book_cover4

It addresses not just depression, but how exercise enhances learning, combats stress, anxiety, attention deficit disorder, womens’ hormonal challenges, addictions, and aging.

My wife and I have found encouragement even for parenting our kids!

Basically, getting the heart and brain up and working together in some good exercise challenge (like intelligent TI SWIMMING, of course) is one powerful thing we control that can seriously combat the neurological (and hence, mental and emotional) challenges you and I face.

So, last week I headed to the sea and plunged in despite the feelings of burden and desperation and I let those cool waves carry a good portion away from me. My problems were not gone when I got out, but I had a sufficient boost of strength to get back in the game and face them. And sure enough, I eventually pulled out and see sunny skies again.

Go swim, my friend.

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3 responses to “Swimming And Depression

  1. As a mental health professional I couldn’t agree more. Here in Sweden over the past few years there’s been a lot of focus on physical activity on presrcription, and at our clinic we offer nordic walking as one form of exercise to treat variety of mental health problems. Many health clubs also offer reduced price for those with a prescription. I’ve been thinking about starting a swim group for this purpose.

  2. I’ve been feeling overwhelmed by life lately and yesterday I went for my first long swim in 13 years. To my surprise I swam 1 km without much difficulty. Focusing on each stroke eased the pain I’ve been suffering. It allowed me to forget my problems temporarily and just enjoy the water and the physical demands on my body.
    When I got out, feeling a bit out of breath and exhausted (both good things!) I lay down on a lounger and burst into tears. It was such sweet relief. Tears that had failed me before, came flowing out and I felt lighter than I had in awhile. Swimming is so much better for me than running or high impact or noisy activities. I’m just alone with my breath and my rhythmical strokes. I can’t believe it took me so long to get back to something that has always helped me.

    • Thank you for sharing that. And how many more out there could use this encouragement?

      Maybe we have erroneously framed mindful swimming as a recreation, which then makes it feel like something we have to cut out when the pressures of life start to compete for the time, energy and attention. But if start to realize its connection to supporting mental and emotional health, to increase energy, we can reframe it, guilt-free, into a necessary health-maintenance activity, as important as brushing the teeth each day.

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