Improving Your Mental Health With Scuba Diving
Updated: Jul 21
I found my love for scuba diving at a time when anxiety and panic attacks were the daily norms in my teenage years. Recently, I have become more aware of how I am at my happiest - when I am regularly diving or exposed to big blue open spaces.
How does this happen & what is it about scuba that improves my mental wellbeing so much?
I remember my first experience in a pool very well… finding myself face first in the water with a bit of plastic in my mouth that was supposed to supply me with enough oxygen to support my breathing to a maximum depth of 40m. After the initial uncertainty about it all (it’s not uncommon to feel this way when you first start) my instructor taught me how to slow down my breathing and really focus on remaining calm.
Unknowingly, this mindfulness of my breathing made me find peace as I became snuggled up in a meditative state, something I will never forget having the privilege of discovering. I felt safe & I had escaped all my irrational fears. And so my addiction to diving and my fascination for marine life began. I went on to achieve my divemasters, scientific research diving and proudly complete a first-class honours degree in marine biology.
So we have touched on breathing, a big influence on our mental wellbeing as we become more mindful. Alongside breathing underwater is of course our physical activity. We have all heard that physical activity boosts our serotonin levels and therefore we have more happy neurons buzzing around our body.
Even though diving isn’t your conventional physical recommendation like running, you’re doing a lot more than you think even though often you will be moving slowly. You are constantly swimming, using core muscles, and also lifting equipment. Alongside being physically active, I have always loved combining this with remaining mentally active. Survey dives or any research activity is amazing for this! You have no choice but to become solely focused on your surroundings and the work you are doing.
So what about social anxiety?
I have always been considered by others as a buzzy, smiley little social bean, but to be completely honest with you I do often find myself struggling in social settings where I can find myself overwhelmed and would rather miss a social event altogether.
Despite having done multiple solo trips around the world, I always remember the first day where it hits you “I don’t know anyone! What am I doing here? I don’t fit in here? I should just go home”. 2 days later you have made new friends for life and you wonder what all the panic was about.
Well, Scuba diving is one of those sports that will bring together like-minded people no matter where you are from in the world. Little ocean nerds, they’re a cracking bunch. The experiences you share are ones you all will never forget and that to me is a special thing. You know what is even better, you are solely reliant on hand signals underwater, no talking necessary. But I bet you this, you’ll have lots to talk about once you return to the surface!
Please be cautious - Always declare your mental health conditions in self-certification diving medical forms. We must always ensure you are safe whilst underwater.
So what are you waiting for, go give your mental health a kick up the butt and try scuba - you won’t regret it!
Some scientific studies on scuba diving and mental health that might tickle your fancy…
Written by Katie Sweeney