~Wallace J. Nichols
Even the most landlocked among us can usually find our way to a lake, stream, or pool, and swimming is an excellent way to get your Blue Mind on.
The feel-good effects of swimming are similar to the “relaxation response” triggered by activities like hatha yoga. In swimming, the muscles are constantly stretching and relaxing, and this movement is accompanied by deep rhythmic breathing, all of which helps put swimmers in a quasi-meditative state.
Like other forms of aerobic exercise, swimming stimulates the release of endorphins and endocannabinoids (the brain’s natural painkilling substances), and these reduce the brain’s stress and anxiety response.
Finally, swimming builds brain strength even as it relaxes the mind. We may spend our first nine months in the “water” of the womb, and we are born with basic abilities to kick in the water, but the crawl and sidestroke are skills we learn. This means that the combination of cognitive effort and aerobic exercise involved in swimming can provide the brain with the satisfying, stress-reducing feeling of “flow” that comes with the practice of an embodied skill.
Excerpted from the book: Blue Mind, Wallace J. Nichols, PhD, 2015; Little, Brown and Company, New York, NY