It’s easy to shrug off meditation as one of those things that there just isn’t time for in the hectic contemporary lifestyle.
But a lot of its key effects can be generated through other activities, including a lot of hobbies that people generally do in their spare time anyway.
A great example of this is swimming.
Already popular for its physical benefits, the impact it can also have on mental and emotional health is often overlooked. Along with being a great all round workout, exercising many key muscle groups and maintaining a healthy heart rate, the positive ramifications it can have for the mind are just as valuable.
In fact, most of them are positively meditative.
THERE ARE VERY FEW DISTRACTIONS
Swimming isolates you from a lot of the things that might often become an excuse to procrastinate. You can’t take your phone in with you. The other people around you aren’t there to chatter. You just go up and down, with other quiet swimmers and maybe some calm music playing if that’s how your pool works. There are very few places for the mind to wander off to. You get to take a break from anything outside the pool.
IT ALLOWS THE MIND TO RELAX
Between the total lack of mental temptations, the simple rhythm of the actions of swimming and the minimal level of focus it takes to keep track of your progress, swimming allows the mind to drain. Particularly if you decide you’re going to do a specific number of lengths, rather than swim for a certain amount of time, your mind can concentrate without feeling strained. You don’t have to focus so much that you can’t enjoy letting your mind explore itself, but you need enough concentration that it won’t get overwhelmed by where it goes.
IT ENCOURAGES A HABIT OF SETTING GOALS
To really feel the benefits of any exercise, you have to have an idea of how much you want to get done. Saying you’ll go until you start flagging or get bored, you never really push yourself. Deciding that you’re going to do a certain number of lengths, or swim consistently for a certain amount of time, you set yourself a goal that is necessary to getting results out of your swim. Getting into this habit is a great way of priming your mind for the other things you want to achieve outside of the water.
AND REACHING THEM
It’s really easy to meet the goals you set yourself in the pool. You’re not going to push yourself too hard and, once you’ve learned the basics, swimming isn’t at all a stressful pastime, provided you’re not comparing yourself to Olympic medallists. The first time you reach forty, or sixty, or one hundred lengths in one go can feel so rewarding. Hitting these goals consistently can give you the confidence to go for something else you really want but have been putting off.
IT CAN BOOST BODY CONFIDENCE
This one won’t apply to everyone. Some people are already as confident as they can get. But body image issues are really common, especially about those areas of the body that aren’t often on display. No matter how perfect someone else might think you look, it’s not uncommon to be sensitive about your thighs or love handles or bingo wings, or whatever else you wish was a bit different. Going swimming in those skin tight, revealing suits can have a huge impact on your self-esteem. Knowing that you can have all your imperfections out where everyone can see and seeing the rest of the world have no reaction to them can be such a satisfying feeling. Sometimes, it takes other people’s indifference to remind you that what you see as flaws are really insignificant.
YOU FEEL THE DIFFERENCE PHYSICALLY
Obviously, exercising leaves you with a physical reaction. Your heart rate has gone up for a while and the muscles you’ve been exercising, hopefully, will feel the effect of their workout. But the impact on the mind will have a close relationship with this. When your mind is relaxed, your body feels less tense and better prepared to face the world. Combine that with the relief that an exercise such as swimming provides and it becomes a lot easier to find a sense of inner peace than you would with just one or the other.
Author Bio – Kirstie Summers is journalist whose day job takes her to all the most interesting places and events in South London. She also freelances for a number of sites and publications, from gaming and literature reviews to creative fiction. She lives in London and spends as much of her free time as possible making the most of being in such a diverse city. She keeps one day a week to herself to swim, relax and keep the stress of the world at bay.