Updated: Dec 16, 2020
Mental health is becoming a more recognisable topic of discussion. To go back ten years ago, talking about anxiety and depression was seen more of a sign of weakness than a necessary discussion. With 2020 being what it is (thanks Covid), our mental health is more important than ever. It would only seem natural that there has been an increase in mental health diagnoses in uncertain times.
Medication can and should play its suitable role in helping those suffering from mental health, however, a pill will not cure all. There are lifestyle changes that also have to come into play when treating mental health conditions. One lifestyle change that is heavily encouraged by doctors is exercising. Legit doctors, especially within the UK, are prescribing nature to relieve symptoms of depression and anxiety.
Where does surfing come into this? Over the last few years surfing has been introduced as a therapy for those suffering from anxiety, depression and PTSD. The Naval Medical Center San Diego created a surfing program in 2008 after an army staff sergeant from Hawaii lost his right leg and right hand in combat who asked if he would ever go surfing again. Therapists took him surfing and, over time, were impressed as he regained strength and self-confidence. Soon a surfing program was created for other amputees and then for patients with mental health problems.
There is a strong connection between battling waves and clearing the mind. There are many organisations now dedicated to helping those with mental health issues that reduce their symptoms with depression and anxiety through surfing. Some notable mentions include WOW, based in Australia, and Wave Project based in Cornwall, United Kingdom.
Although there is exercise involved with surfing, which has been proven to reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety, there is a deeper connection to surfing. Facing the elements only to harness its power for your gratification can bring a sense of awareness and reconnection to the world. Being outdoors and Vitamin D from the sun (depending on where you live), it’s a simple recipe the mind feasts upon.
For those that surf, there is without a doubt a clearing of the mind post-surf; problems or issues seem to just melt away. Even while surfing and sitting out back, it's incredibly hard to not appreciate the serenity to the situation you have found yourself in. Without trying to sound too ‘woo woo’, it would be an injustice if surfing was not associated with some form of meditation. Forget about the silencing and quieting the mind, I’m talking about the serenity and connection to the ocean you have forced yourself to experience.
This article is biased, granted. I am writing this based on personal experiences and beliefs. For myself, I know surfing really does clear my mind. Any anxieties, troubles, and issues drift away with every surf. It’s easy to reflect post-surf and wonder if they were issues at all? From someone who has suffered from depression in the past, I know surfing can help relieve symptoms and create a healthier outlook on life. This is not the cure, but certainly a useful tool in making symptoms more manageable. It is clear to see why more and more organisations and doctors are using surfing and ocean therapy as a resource to help those experiencing issues with their mental health. For more information, check out the links below.