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Monday, January 30, 2023

Why learning to surf can be great for your mental health, according to psychologists.

Health & FitnessWhy learning to surf can be great for your mental health, according to psychologists.

Nothing clears the mind like going for a surf. With the escapism and simplicity of riding waves, it’s no secret that surfing feels good. Now our preliminary study in children and adolescents adds to the growing evidence that surfing really is good for your mental health. But you don’t need to have a mental illness to receive benefits. Here’s how you can use what we’re learning from our research to boost your mental health. (Also read: Mental Health Tips: Signs You’re Emotionally Exhausted how to deal)

How good is surfing for you?

Evidence showing the mental health benefits of surfing range from improving self-esteem and reducing social isolation to treating depression and other mental disorders.

Such evidence comes primarily from specific surf therapy programs. These supports combine surfing instruction with one-on-one or group activities that promote psychological well-being.

At their core, most of these programs challenge participants to learn to surf in an emotionally safe environment.

Any mental health benefits are thought to include:

– Increased sense of social connection

– A sense of accomplishment that people can transfer to other activities.

– Relief from the daily stress of needing all-encompassing attention while surfing

– Physiological responses while surfing, including the reduction of stress hormones and the release of mood-elevating neurotransmitters

– Exercising in natural environments, especially in “blue spaces” (on or near water).

which we did

The aim of our pilot study was to see if the Ocean Mind Surf Therapy program improved the mental health of children and adolescents.

We also wanted to see if participants accepted surfing as a way to address their mental health concerns.

The study involved 36 young people, aged 8-18, seeking help for a mental health problem, such as anxiety, or a neurodevelopmental disorder (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or autism spectrum disorder). were wanting They were referred by their mental health provider, GP or school counsellor.

Participants were randomly allocated to or waitlisted for the Ocean Mind Surf Therapy program. Those allocated to surf therapy continued their usual care, including case management by a mental health provider. Those on the waiting list (control group) also continued their usual care.

The surf therapy program ran for two hours every weekend for six weeks. Youth were partnered one-on-one with a community mentor who received training in mental health literacy and surf instruction.

Each session includes supportive surf instruction and group mental health support, all done on the beach. Sessions are run by program coordinators who are also trained in mental health and surf instruction.

What we found

By the end of the six-week program, those receiving surf therapy had reduced symptoms of depression, anxiety, hyperactivity and inattention, as well as emotional and peer problems. This was compared to those in the control group, who had an increase in these symptoms.

However, no improvement was sustained six weeks after the program ended.

Those who received surf therapy also saw it as a suitable and appropriate way for young people to manage symptoms of mental disorders. This was further supported by the high completion rate (87%), particularly when compared to other mental health treatment modalities. For example, psychotherapy (talk therapy) has reported dropout rates of 28-75% for children and adolescents.

It’s early days.

These preliminary results are promising. But since this was a pilot study, more research with larger numbers of participants is needed to confirm these findings and see if they generalize to a wider population.

We want to identify the optimal dose of surf therapy in terms of session frequency, duration, and program length.

We also need to understand the factors that sustain these initial positive changes in mental health, so that any gains can be sustained after the program ends.

The recognition of surfing as a potentially effective and acceptable mental health treatment among young people is also promising. But this finding does not preclude more traditional medical treatments, such as talk therapy and medication, which may work better for some people.

Rather, surf therapy can be seen as an additional form of support to these methods or as an alternative for those who do not benefit from more traditional methods.

Tempted to try surfing?

If you think surfing might be for you, remember:

– Surfing requires full concentration due to the changing ocean conditions, making it a great way to escape from everyday life and erase the effects of stress.

– For some, surfing can reduce barriers to seeking mental health care.

– Surfing may not be for everyone, nor is it guaranteed to alleviate your symptoms. Even the best surfers can suffer from depression and need outside help.

– Don’t worry if you can’t access the ocean or surfboard. Other nature-based activities, such as hiking and gardening, can also benefit your mental health.

This story was published without editing the text from a wire agency feed. Only the title has been changed.


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