Most of us like to go diving because it makes us feel good, but what if it was actually therapeutic? What if it’s also helping us and healing us whilst we make bubbles and gawk at fish?
Here are a few reasons why diving is therapeutic:
# You Breathe!
Whichever type of stress relief you look at you’ll find that controlled breathing is a key element, whether it be yoga, meditation, relaxation techniques, sophrology, smoking(!). Diving forces you to breath in a deliberate slow, deep and regular way for anything between 30 minutes and an hour or more at a time. Controlled breathing is central to becoming a comfortable diver and a large part of the good feeling you get after the dive is the sensation of calm and oneness which comes, in part, from deep controlled breathing. People who practice yoga and meditation, as well as diving, often point out how the feelings are similar after all three activities. Next time you go diving, you can pat yourself on the back for doing something your body and mind will thank you for and watch that stress just melt away.
# You’re in a silent world
We live busy lives in busy places often spending a large portion of our day interacting with other people, talking, listening, surrounded by the sounds of the city or of the countryside (in Nusa Penida that’ll be cockerels, cars and mosques/temples). We are constantly surrounded by sounds and noise. Once your head goes underwater nearly all the sounds are switched off or very faint. You hear the sound of your own breathing, calm, regular, the odd boat engine and that's pretty much all, except for the reef crackling sounds. No one can speak to you, you communicate only with signals, how relaxing. Finally, we can just be, no words, no explanations needed. We only need simple communication sometimes, not sentences, just a few gestures and signals, human interaction cut back to its bare essentials.
# You’re disconnected
You can’t take your mobile phone underwater, thankfully! For those people who just can’t disconnect for work reasons or for social media addiction reasons, diving is the one time when you just can’t check your phone at all. It gives you a well needed break from your life and all its strings and bagage. One hour to be unreachable, disconnected and in a different world. One hour to be free.
# You experience weightlessness
Of course, we’d all love to learn how to fly, just float in liquid, weightless like in those 9 months before birth. Diving brings back those feelings of weightlessness. Feeling ethereal in a 3D environment, no longer chained to the ground by gravity. Floating, flying, dreaming, free.
# You do physical activity
Most doctors recommend physical activity as the all-around best medication for almost anything that ails you. It helps fight stress, heart disease, back pain, muscle and join pain, depression, high blood pressure and the list goes on. You name it, exercise will help improve it or prevent it. Clearly diving is not like running a marathon but in a quiet, calm way, like yoga, it makes you do physical exercise without even noticing it. You burn calories, use your muscles, breathe and sometimes even move around a bit! Next time you’re enjoying a dive, just remember you are also doing your body and mind a great deal of good (and burning calories, who knew?).
# You’re immersed in Nature
It’s often said that a walk in nature is good for the soul, it calms the mind, it soothes the spirit. What you do in diving is spend an hour surrounded by natural elements, nothing man made except potentially a sunken wreck. You are now but a visitor here , the fish go about their business, you drift through their silent blue world as a guest, no sharp edges, strait lines, no underground trains, no cars, no flashing lights; just the sound of your own breathing and the crackling of the reef, just rounded coral heads or granite boulders, fields of Posidonia or soft coral. You have the occasional magical interaction with a Manta ray or a turtle, a moment when you suddenly feel connected to all living things. The precious bliss of being surrounded completely by nature, which, these days, happens so little for many people. Soak in the tranquillity and connectedness.
# You’ve got something to look forward to.
Psychiatrists say that a part of the joy of a holiday is in the preparation and anticipation of the holiday. Preparing your dive holiday, choosing the destination, the sites, getting your gear ready, getting ready on the boat, and then, after diving, looking up the fish observed : all this is part of the joy that diving brings. It extends way beyond the moment of the dive. Start planning now!
If you needed any additional reasons to go diving, we’ve just given you some. So, go diving and do yourself some good. It’s not just fish and coral, its tranquillity, joy, disconnecting and reconnecting.
Footnote: I am clearly not the first person to think of this and some scientist even went out and did scientific studies about it, in particular to help war veterans with deep physical and psychological wounds.