By Carli Wood
The Jesuit Crusader (Portland, Oregon)
Swimming, although known for its long practices and time consuming competitions, may have a benefit that goes beyond serving as an activity on a college application. While swimming can be an intense sport, at its core, the repetitious acts of breathing, kicking, and stroking can turn into a mindful, de-stressing exercise.
Recently, connections have been drawn between mindful activities, such as swimming, and improvements in a person’s physical, emotional, and mental health. Help Guide, a guide to mental, emotional, and social health defines mindfulness as “the practice of purposely focusing your attention on the present moment—and accepting it without judgment.”
“Making sure that your legs are kicking at a certain pace, being able to focus on that, and then coming back and focusing on other issues that are going on in your life, it kind of makes them seem less important,” senior Johanna Parker said. “I think that helps calm people down.”
In a world that is always on-the-go, it’s easy to become absorbed in constantly worrying about the next big test, competition, or project. Finding the time to enjoy the present has become increasing difficult, particularly at the high-school age.
“[My favorite part of swimming is] being at peace,” senior Neha Hazra said. “I think a lot of our lives are so stressful because we have school and jobs and other extracurricular activities that we have to worry about. When you swim you don’t have to worry about [any of that] because your only job is to swim and to breathe. That makes everything else go away.”
For many students, swimming provides them with the opportunity to get lost in an activity free from the ever-looming academic stress. Students have reported feeling more emotionally, mentally, and physically healthy, sleeping more deeply, and having better focus in academic endeavors after swimming.
“Part of it’s singing songs, counting, that type of stuff,” senior Kenna Holt said when describing her thoughts when swimming. “I’m not really thinking about school or anything like that I’m just kind of alone with my thoughts and the water… It’s a nice break so I can mentally reset.”
Beginning for many in high school, our lives tend to adopt a routine based on “what needs to get done” to be successful. While this lifestyle may productive, it often punishes ones physical, mental, and emotional health by paring down time spent relaxing, taking care of ourselves, and doing what makes us happy.
Particularly in an environment as academically rigorous as the one at Jesuit, even the once-enjoyable sports such as swimming can turn into a chore that takes away the precious hours needed to complete an overwhelming homework load.
However, despite this stressful environment, some students still manage to find reprieve in taking time for themselves through swimming. Finding this balance, finding time to enjoy the present, finding time for self-care, is vital to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
“[I like] being alone with my thoughts and feeling water around me,” Holt said. “[Swimming has] that meditative quality where you’re just in your own space and you can have your own time.”
Photo Credit: Nottingham Trent