Why Are Surfers So Chill? How Surfing Impacts Mental Health

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by: Nemanja Marinkoff

Whether you are dealing with depression, anxiety, or stress, did you know that surfing can help? There is something more than a vague surfer aura to indicate that surfing can be beneficial to your mental health. It is not a secret that being surrounded by the sea has a positive impact on your life; the sun, providing vitamin D, which helps to cure depression, your immune system, and your skin. Combine that with exercise, and you get the pure heaven for your health. 

But keep in mind that, like any exercise, requires a strong will, determination, and early morning habits.

It has been proven that surfing heals! It is a medicine for depressive symptoms, negative thoughts, insomnia, bipolar disorders, and destructive behaviors. It can help ease your stress and even grief. It is almost a meditative experience that not only improves your physical health and fitness but can be life-changing emotionally and mentally, as well.

Surfing and PTSD

In 2017, the United States Navy started a $1 million project that investigates the benefits of surfing for PTSD, depression, and sleep disorders. To understand how exactly surfing may help with PTSD, let’s focus on three points that doctors make when explaining why surfing has a positive impact on the brain.

It’s an outdoor activity

Being in nature has been reported to be the best cure for today’s fast-paced, city-based society. Have you ever gone to the walk in the woods and realized that you feel amazing? Research has shown that nature indeed has a positive impact on our mental health. Scientists found a correlation with our mood and our mental health, because mood often has a profound effect on our feelings during the day, and it determines how we are going to behave in hard and challenging situations. Mood disorders are also a major component of all mental illnesses. It turns out that being outside can help reduce stress levels, help with our ability to focus, and leads to more mental energy. These effects are even greater if the physical activity is in the presence of water.

Surfing balances between risk and reward

Surfing requires focus, so we would not fall off the board, but it gives back the reward of riding the waves. Scientists found that the award is needed to make something a pleasant experience, but research also found that when there is a reward, our brains release dopamine, which is a chemical that causes us to feel good. After we have established the routine of risk and reward, dopamine will start to be released not only when we get the reward, but during the risks, as well, because it releases dopamine in anticipation of the reward. In some mental illnesses, doctors found that dopamine dysfunction and lack of presence is the primary reason for the illness. In those cases, it leads to a decreased desire to do things that bring us joy. But surfing is a pleasant experience, which stimulates our brains to release dopamine, thus helping to cure depression and anxiety. For people with PTSD, surfing could help with increasing their capacity for positive feelings like joy, and for managing mood in the face of a hyperactive fight-or-flight response.

It is physically exhausting

There has been a lot of research on how exercise affects our brains in the last decade. It was found that regular, moderate activities have a beneficial impact, not only on our minds but on our overall health. It lifts our mood and helps us to deal with stress. A lot of people hate to exercise, but with surfing, it is different. Usually, everyone is in love with the water, and people think of surfing not as a form of physical exercise, but as a challenge. Simply put: it is enjoyable.

If you have not tried surfing yet, learning and acquiring the skill can also make you feel better, by letting you focus on the water, and not on your thoughts. Surfing may not be a solution for all your problems, but it will make you feel a lot more confident and content with life. It will make you happier and more relaxed, allowing you to focus better and have healthy sleep patterns. So what are you waiting for? 

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Bio: Nemanja Marinkoff is editor-in-chief at TheGearHunt and WalkJogRun. He’s a marketing expert, and he’s interested in all things related to basketball. He also loves marzipan, although his wife hates it. You can find him on Twitter.

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