Swimmers And Humanity With A Blue Mind

Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

If I reflect upon a marathon swim many years after, I often remember most vividly the ‘bad’ things like how cold the water is, the pain of a jellyfish sting, or the depth of fatigue that I faced,” recalls Steven Munatones. “Decades after those swims, those memories are more numerous and more ‘real’ than all the many more miles that were swum in pleasure or all the beautiful images that I recall about swimming down the Hudson, along the Pacific coast or around islands in the Caribbean or South Pacific.”

While this long-range recollection of the ‘good’ or the ‘bad’ of marathon swimmers of their own experiences may or may not be common among open water swimmers, but there may be a physiological reason for this long-held impression for at least a few swimmers.

Our brains are wired to be Teflon for the positive and Velcro for the negative,” writes Dr. Wallace J. Nichols in his best-selling book Blue Mind: The Surprising Science That Shows How Being Near, In, On, or Under Water Can Make You Happier, Healthier, More Connected, and Better at What You Do.

Dr. Nichols wrote numerous pertinent passages for contemplation and confirmation by open water swimmers and anyone who loves being in, on or under the waterways of the world.

Open water swimmers often feel positive both physically and emotionally before, during and after getting in the water. Dr. Nichols explains in Blue Mind how there is a direct physiological mechanism for this positive feeling towards swimming. “…both the intensity and novelty of an experience increase levels of norepinephrine and dopamine, which increase the formation of new synapses in the hippocampus and thus the creation of new neural structures. Frequent positive experiences then cause the neurons that are firing together to wire together, strengthening these positive neural pathways.

When we bring focused attention to positive experiences, we will deepen those pathways even more

These are the kinds of experiences and physiological processes that are among the myriad topics that Dr. Nichols and his colleagues from the scientific, athletic, and artistic communities deliver at his annual Blue Mind Summits and the other projects and initiatives that have resulted from the Blue Mind.

The Blue Mind Summits are among the nominees for the 2016 World Open Water Swimming Offering of the Year (see list below).

Dr. Nichols explains even about the simplest reactions humans have with water. In Blue Mind, he writes, “I believe that the strong emotions many of us experience around water can be triggered by even the faintest whiff of salty air…read or listen to what…swimmers or surfers or divers or sailors say about water, and you’ll hear the language of people who are in love with, if not addicted to, their sport.”

The nominees for the World Open Water Offering of the Year are as follows:

1. Prison Island Swims (International)
3. Samsung Bosphorus Cross-Continental Swim (Turkey)
4. Ocean City Swim Club Unified Team / Legion of Ocean Heroes Surf Lifesaving Festival (USA)
5. KAATSU Aqua (Japan)
6. Hawaiʻi Tiger Shark Tracking (USA)
7. OceanFit (Australia)
8. The Power of Swimming or Simma med Stjärnorna (Sweden)
9. Wildswim.com (United Kingdom)
10. Instabeat (International)
11. Terroir Project Collection (Denmark)
12. Agar Plasticity (Japan)
13. Swimming in the Sink: An Episode of the Heart by Lynne Cox (USA)
14. Global Alert Platform by the Ocean Recovery Alliance (Hong Kong)
15. Blue Mind Summits by Dr. Wallace J. Nichols (International)

To vote for the WOWSA Awards, visit here. Online voting continues until December 31st 2016.

Copyright © 2016 by World Open Water Swimming Association
Steven Munatones