When the going gets tough, the tough get going says the famous proverb. Its meaning is intertemporal and applies to all people all around the world. What is less visible at times, is that mental resilience is not a natural “gift” that only some “privileged” individuals have but a trait that all of us can develop. Swimming can be a great tool for getting there.
The significance of mental resilience
Learning to adjust to the difficulties of life is probably the most important skill for progressing. Most of us are well aware that through the course of life numerous hard times emerge. Disappointments, losses, failures or even circumstances claimed as force majeure-like the current pandemic- are life-changing events. The way we deal with such events is the determining factor of our evolution. It doesn't matter how many times you fall, what matters is how many times you get back up, as another well-known quote says. It is mental toughness that plays a much more critical role in life achievements than intelligence. Although mental resilience is expressed in various ways, according to the unique personalities of individuals, there is one common characteristic: The development of habits.
Swimming increases physical strength
Getting back to the significance of swimming in developing mental resilience, we can identify a critical aspect: The increase of physical fitness. Indeed, the correlation between physical and mental health is strong. Developing the habit of swimming can bring tremendous results in both. Professional swimmers are among the best athletes of all sports for a reason. While most sports focus on strengthening specific muscle groups-e.g. the calves for footballers or the back and shoulders for basketball players- swimming strengthens the whole body. Balanced efforts in the water lead to effective results. It takes only a small number of swimming sessions to feel the difference in terms of physical endurance and boosting confidence. The will to continue developing your body shape as well as the habit of getting into the water and keeping a stable momentum can do miracles for your mental resilience.
Swimming increases self-esteem
The concept of self-esteem is directly linked to developing mental toughness. When we feel confident about ourselves and positive for what lies ahead, nothing can bring us down. Getting in the swimming pool frequently, working out the body effectively and achieving visible results, are all milestones that sharpen mental strength. There is a relevant study that indicates how learning new swimming skills is affecting self-esteem development. As you will continue improving your swimming performance you will begin assessing your strengths and weaknesses, learning from your mistakes, developing your skills and ultimately growing your self-respect. Self-esteem and mental toughness are not coming from the sky neither they emerge in one night. Instead, they are the product of a balanced and well-organised approach that involves several different factors.
Accepting problems as a challenge
There is an illustrative example of the way, swimming can function as the ideal activity for growing mental toughness. Back in 2009, Michael Phelps participated at the FINA World Championships. What were the obstacles that he had to face?
- He did not wear the head-to-toe rubber suits that all the other swimmers were wearing
- There were 43 new world records (including the breaking of his own in the 100m butterfly) from other competitive swimmers
- Just an hour before the race he was involved in an accident with another swimmer that affected his vision and cracked his goggles
Most swimmers would have been blocked by this series of events. How did Phelps “react”? He won the gold medal by becoming the first swimmer to break the 50-second mark in the 100m butterfly. Phelps’s breathtaking performance after such a series of issues shows that when we accept problems as challenges to beat, we can boost mental resilience.
Involving in outdoor activities builds mental strength
According to some statistical researches spending time in outdoor activities during the Covid pandemic is greatly influencing both mental health and wellbeing. Through these unprecedented times of social distancing and continuous anxiety, getting involved in outdoor swimming is an excellent way of keeping a physical and mental balance. The combination of the chilling and relaxing water effect with the beautiful natural scenery can produce outstanding results in terms of mental balance. Before developing mental resilience we need to acquire mental stability and preserve our positive energy. Outdoor swimming is probably the optimal activity to keep sane and build up our mental health condition. Not to mention the relation between swimming in cold water and longevity. Getting to learn all the mastery of swimming will be a great asset for you. Not only for the peculiar pandemic times but for all aspects of your life.