A dip in the sea is good for the soul

People go swimming in the sea at Portmarnock in Dublin during a spell of bad weather.

Swimming in the sea is invigorating - Credit: PA

One of my favourite things to do in London days was swim outdoors.

I moved to Brixton largely because of the proximity of the park where the beautiful Brockwell Lido is located.

However I was feeling when I entered the pool, that first moment after pushing away from the wall, feeling my face glide through the always cool, sometimes very cold water, made me smile.

My love of water began very young.

It’s definitely connected to a childhood lived by the sea, but it’s also, I think, got something to do with the calming but also invigorating properties of this oh so powerful element.

If you’re feeling inflamed, fiery, angry, stressed, a dip in cool water can calm you just as a fireman’s hose quells a flame.

If you’re depressed, numb, lost inside your own physical form, the shock of that initial immersion; the one that takes your breath away or even makes you shout or howl or laugh out loud, can jolt you back into your body, almost like jump leads restarting a car battery that’s gone flat. 

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Those swims in London were so life giving, and in the months when the lido was open I would visit every day if I could.

In 2012, I took part in the annual River Dart 10K swim from Totnes to Dittisham, to raise money for the neonatal unit at Exeter Hospital.

My twin nieces had been so wonderfully cared for when they were born there in 2009, and I wanted to do something to say thank you.

On the day of the girls' birth I was working from home in Brixton, and I had just got back from a lunch time lido trip when my Mum called to tell me the happy news, so a swim felt like the perfect fundraiser.

I found the actual event very tough, and am definitely not a candidate for an annual sign up, but we raised a really good amount, so it was well worth it.

Since I’ve been back in Torbay, I haven’t swum as much, only on really hot summer days, and only for a short time.

Back in March, a friend suggested that we go for a dip in the sea.

At first I was reluctant, but then I gave myself a talking to, and remembered how good it is for me.

We were lucky on the first morning, at Oddicombe, because although the water was really cold, the sun was shining.

Wet suited, booted and gloved up, we were able to bask in the water with warm rays on our faces for about 15 minutes.

The second time, a choppy day at Meadfoot, was definitely more medicinal than enjoyable, but we did it.

Regardless of the conditions, there is always something special about getting really cold and then wrapping up and getting warm with a hot drink afterwards.

I’ve realised that a dip in open air water doesn’t always have to be about the aquatic equivalent of steps, that it can just be about reminding myself that I am alive, and only a tiny part of something so much bigger than I am.

If you need a bit of support to get started, there are open-air swimming groups around the Bay: an internet search will help you find your closest one.

Along with mental health and circulatory benefits, regular outdoor swimming can help to build a healthy immune system, maintain a healthy heart and lungs and tone and strengthen muscles, so it’s definitely worth taking the plunge.