There’s a reason that saying you feel calm by the ocean is a cliché, because that’s how most of us feel. While some may be able to exactly articulate why they feel at peace by the ocean, others may not know the why, just how they feel. Well there is actual science and reason behind that feeling of calm and peace when you are faced with the expanse of blue that stretches over nearly three-quarters of the world.
The noise emitted by the sea reduces levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, and transmits calmness. It stimulates the prefrontal cortex, the area of your brain responsible for emotions and personal reflection, which expands and improves self-awareness and emotional well-being. Not only does the soundtrack of the ocean calm you, but so do the waves. Our body absorbs the negative ions that are released by ocean waves. This encourages our body to absorb more oxygen and regulate our levels of serotonin, a substance that controls anxiety. It results in a feeling of peace that is similar to what you would feel after doing yoga.
However, the effect of the ocean on our mental state doesn’t stop just at the beach. It follows us down beneath the surface. Scuba diving can not only be considered a sport, but a mental activity too. The full immersion of your body into water creates a unique sensory experience and combined with the environmental surroundings and physical requirements of diving, it is akin to underwater meditation.
There are numerous techniques for successful meditation but they all center around one key factor – breathing. Focusing on breathing allows you to become more self-aware, more centrally focused and more relaxed. While diving you tend to automatically slow your breathing and breathe more deeply. This induces a state of calm that reduces your heart rate and lowers your blood pressure. Deep breathing increases oxygen levels which benefits both the mind and the body. As we focus on our breathing we enter a meditative state in that our minds are cleared of the many thoughts that we would otherwise be having on land. All that matters is our breathing and the underwater world around us. Achieving a singular focus is one of the main aims of meditation – one which many people can struggle with as their minds tend to wander and take them off course. For divers we achieve a singular focus state of mind almost every time we enter the water and become one with the world around us, our breathing and our body.
Additionally it helps that underwater is a sound vacuum, and this combined with the deep breathing and peaceful setting creates a safe space to escape and let go of worries. You’re blissfully aware that you won’t and can’t be disrupted by a ringing phone or a pinging inbox. With the sounds and distractions of the world above the surface drowned out, you become more aware of the unique sounds of the ocean: waves breaking, the sound of the coral reef, a boat in the distance… and most of all, your own breathing.
Your breathing, your buoyancy and the magical world around you are the only things you need to think about for the duration of your visit to the underwater world. Take a deep breath in and let go of all your worries with your bubbles, watch as they rise back to the surface where they belong. It brings to mind the Jacques Cousteau quote “… man has only to sink beneath the surface and he is free.”
GoPro @ XTC Dive Center is a PADI 5* Instructor Development Resort and 100% Project AWARE partner located in Xcalak, Mexico. We offer the full range of PADI Professional Training Courses including custom EcoPro and Dive Center Experience workshops. Come and train with us in paradise and leave here ready to teach!