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Why I do cold water exposure

By Brooke Lily // BBC The Social contributor // 24 May 2021

When people ask me why, I ask them, “Have you ever tried it?”

I first noticed signs of anxiety when I started high school, this got worse when I moved school at the age of 15. I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression not long after this and began weekly therapy sessions, however, I never found these very helpful and struggled to find a way to cope with my feelings. This was until I experienced wild swimming, which has changed my life forever.

How Wild Swimming Helped My Mental Health

“The second I took that first dip into the water, I knew I could take the control back”

My first dip was in the middle of winter, January, probably the coldest week of the year and it had been snowing quite a bit. It was such a crisp cold morning and I decided to just brave it, telling myself it’s now or never and if I can do it on a day like that then I’m capable of doing it anytime. I went down to Ayr beach with a few of the women from the Wild Sea Women Group and did some breathing exercises for a few minutes before entering the water… the second my toes touched the water there was an instant rush of adrenaline through my body. As I eased myself in up to my neck I had all sorts of thoughts in my head telling me to turn back but then it settled in like “Wow I’m really doing this!”

Getting over the first dip is the definitely the hardest one, it’s such a mental battle due to the fear of the cold but from that point onwards I knew it was just the mind telling me I couldn’t, when my body was proving I really could. From then on I was hooked, and it really is so addictive. The boost of endorphins (happy hormones) you get when you’re in the water taking in the views around you is just crazy.

The main benefit for me has to be the way it boosted my belief in myself. It has really increased my motivation towards my studies. I struggled to concentrate in my final years of school and really lacked energy to get up and go, but I’m now pushing myself harder than ever before to reach my goals. It’s shown me that all those negative, worrying thoughts in our head don’t have to control us, I’ve learned to use my time in the water to fight back and control them. Stepping into the water initiates your fight or flight response and learning to calm yourself and breathe properly in that situation to find peace in the water is so powerful. I can now use this skill in everyday life if I’m anxious and make uncomfortable situations more comfortable. It’s a great way to set yourself up for the day ahead, let go of any stresses and replace them with a positive, hopeful mindset. There’s amazing physical benefits too! I love going for a dip after exercising to help my muscles relax. I also find going in the water in the evening helps me sleep better that night.

I hope people who are in a similar situation to me can take away a really positive thing from this. I think things can always get better, no matter what your fears are stopping you from doing. If you’re having problems with your mental or physical health, there is always a light at the end of the tunnel. You will find a way to cope and overcome anything and when you do the feeling is life changing. It’s so important to believe in yourself, fight for yourself, make yourself and your feelings a priority! You have so much power within you so don’t let anything take that away from you. I thought poor mental health would control me my whole life and I never imagined going a day without it being there… but the second I took my first dip in that water I knew I’d taken control back.

Stepping into the water initiates your fight or flight response and learning to calm yourself and breathe properly in that situation to find peace in the water is so powerful

I think everyone should give wild swimming and cold water therapy a try. Many people can benefit from this, it’s not just for those who are struggling with mental health. Those people that are thinking it’s crazy and would never do it are probably the ones that would benefit most! Stepping out of your comfort zone is where real change is made. It’s also a great way to travel and find new places. I’ve been to some pretty cool waterfalls and it’s amazing how close you get to nature, it’s such a good stress reliever. There’s so much positive energy to all this!

So that’s me told you why I do it… now think of you, why you want to try? What you want to take away from all of this? If you you’ve made it this far down then you’re definitely curious, so with that being said, get in that water!