I have always been drawn to the sea. Growing up in Tasmania, Australia, I had an idyllic childhood and loved being by the coast. Summers were always spent on the beach and I recall the excitement of wild and windy days during autumn and winter, feeling the raw energy of the sea.
But as a child I didn’t fully appreciate the potent healing power of the ocean and moved away from the sea, settling in London for 25 years.
While I loved the city, it wasn't always kind to my mental health.
As someone who is troubled by anxiety, I noticed that spending time by the sea meant my mind stopped racing, my heart rate slowed, I breathed more deeply, and my shoulders relaxed. It’s free medicine.
With this in mind, I made the decision to move to the Sussex Coast in March 2020, just five minutes walk from the beach. I took up cold water swimming, following the Wim Hof Method of cold showers to prepare my body first and then embracing the great outdoors - with a DryRobe to keep me warm.
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The benefits of cold-water swimming on my anxiety were immediate. When you immerse your body in water at cold temperatures, you can think of nothing else.
It’s the most effective way to take your thoughts out of your head and it’s truly liberating to free the mind of anxious thoughts. I feel totally at one with the sea and it feels like the most natural thing. It’s just me and the sea and nothing else matters.
Mark has made friends while outdoor swimming
Cold-water swimming also helps with feelings of isolation. Working remotely from home means I don’t see a lot of people in person, so that element of social connection is super important to me.
Experts recommend that you never swim alone, so I joined a local group of people who swim almost every day.
We meet up, have a chat, connect, check in with each other and swim.
Since moving to live by the sea I am calmer and happier than I was living in London. And don’t think that it’s all about swimming in cold water.
Mark swims in the sea all year round
A stroll by the sea, sitting and listening to the waves or even looking out to the horizon – these all offer the same benefits. You relax, your attention becomes more focused, your mind and wandering thoughts begin to calm. The rhythmic sound of the waves is mesmerizing to listen to. I often meditate on the beach, listening to the sound of the waves. That is my time of peace and tranquility.
I walk by the sea every day — no matter the weather. It can be calm and soothing or wild and energetic. Every day is different. I swim every few days and do so all through winter with no wetsuit.
There is no feeling on earth that compares to it. And I always emerge from the sea with a smile. I meditate on the beach regularly and I see quite a few people doing it too.
Taking 10 minutes to sit, be mindful, bringing your awareness to the present moment is a gift very few of us do regularly. I’m lucky as I can do this with the noise of the waves and the call of seagulls flying overhead as my soundtrack. It connects me so deeply with nature. I feel truly at peace.
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Mark is founder of mindfulness wellness company Kalm Horizons.