As avid SCUBA divers, we can attest that there is nothing quite like sinking below the surface and experiencing the weightlessness and silence (for the most part) of the underwater world. But what are the other benefits of SCUBA diving?
The physical benefits of diving are clear – it improves blood circulation, muscular strength and flexibility, as well as concentration capacity, and it lowers blood pressure. Not to mention most diving is done outside, and anything that pulls people away from digital screens and brings them to the outdoors to connect with nature can only be considered a good thing! But what about the mental health benefits?
It may take some planning and preparation, but diving is a sport that is accessible to everyone, with a full range of physical and mental abilities. SCUBA diving has also been proven to be beneficial to mental health for a number of reasons. Believe it or not, the benefit of diving on our emotional wellbeing has only recently become a focus of study. Luckily for us divers, it seems recreational diving can only be considered a good thing!
In 2016, the University of Sheffield’s medical school put together a study group of 15 male war veterans to investigate whether SCUBA diving can “offer therapeutic benefits to military veterans experiencing physical and psychological injuries as a result of combat”. Using a General Health Questionnaire and several interviews with the participants and their families, as well as their health care professionals, the overwhelming answer was YES – diving had a positive impact on these veterans. The participants noticed improvements in levels of anxiety, depression and social functioning, and also experienced less insomnia. It is interesting to note that there seemed to be a more pronounced improvement in veterans whose injuries were psychological rather than physical.
Why would SCUBA diving be so beneficial for these amazing veterans and the general population living with mental health challenges? You have come to the right place, let me tell you!
Firstly, SCUBA diving encourages mindfulness. The diver must be aware of their surroundings, their buoyancy, their buddy, their air, their depth and their time. We must not kick the coral (or whatever the bottom topography is!), we must not disturb the marine life, and ideally we don’t want to be floating along the surface! We must be mindful in our bodies, our actions, and our breathing.
Secondly, diving instills a sense of confidence in divers as they accomplish the tasks set before them. Every instructor has a success story of someone who was scared to do something, whether it was a skill like taking off their mask, or fear of open water, but the person managed to overcome their fear and complete their course and dives. There is nothing quite like realizing that many problems with diving are psychological, and can be overcome. It may not be quick and easy, but it is possible! Once this is completed, the diver realizes that many things that have been holding them back can be overcome, both under and above the water.
Thirdly, diving is a very social sport. Even though we can’t speak underwater, the amount of chit-chat that happens on the surface is part of the fun! As a diver, you need to dive with a buddy (save people that are certified solo-divers, but we will ignore them for the purpose of this post!). Many dive centres will have dive clubs, were multiple buddy groups will go to the same spot together at the same time. Maybe even go for a pub lunch afterwards to talk about the dive! This allows people with low social confidence or social anxiety to participate in a vibrant group setting without feeling like they have nothing to contribute. Many divers want to talk about just that… diving! Knowing what you’ll be mainly speaking about and having the same over-arching interest in the sport relieves a lot of anxiety that surrounds social interactions.
In these strange days of social media and probably too much screen time, it can be hard to keep your mind healthy. Diving, whether it’s with a club or just a buddy, in an inland lake or down in Cornwall, is a great way to stay healthy, both in body and in spirit.
So why not start your journey today and find out about our PADI open water courses to become a qualified diver.