Monday, May 27, 2024

Dive into Serenity: How Scuba Diving And Mental Health Come Together


Often, scuba diving is described as an extreme sport by the uninitiated. While that may be partially true, scuba diving has hidden benefits. One of the least discussed is scuba diving and mental health.

Scuba can have a massive positive impact on our mental health. Many people now recommend it as a great way to deal with stress and build confidence. Diving has also been shown to help deal with anxiety and can be part of an excellent mindfulness lifestyle.

Scuba diving and mental health are great companions with many divers reporting improved mental health.
Scuba diving and mental health are great companions with many divers reporting improved mental health.

The Connection Between Scuba Diving and Mental Health

The fundamental connection between scuba diving and mental health involves breathing. Controlling our breathing has many benefits, and it is a common practice in meditation, yoga, scuba diving, and other mindful activities. That has a positive impact on our mental health.

The similarity of the breathing patterns in scuba diving and meditation makes this connection so strong. Without context, you do not know if the phrase “You should breathe deeply and slowly” came from the mouth of a scuba Instructor or a meditation practitioner.

There is some variance in whether you use your mouth or nose. The pattern of breathing when diving and meditating is extremely similar. Long, slow, deep inhalation followed by long, slow, deep exhalations.

Why Scuba Diving Is Amazing For Your Mental Health

This means that just by going for an easy 45-minute dive, you practice breathing, similar to meditating for 45 minutes. While you do not have the same mental state when diving since you need to be aware of your surroundings, location, depth, tank pressure, and more, deep breathing impacts and creates a positive link between scuba diving and mental health.

Several studies have found that deep breathing exercises for a few minutes can lower your cortisol (the stress hormone) levels. So, if you do a couple of 45-minute dives daily, you essentially spend 90 minutes lowering your cortisol levels.

This is not a blanket effect; some arduous dives under challenging conditions can be very stressful, causing more stress regardless of how you breathe.

Diving as a Mindfulness Practice

Mindfulness is being present at the moment and focusing on the present physical and emotional state and surroundings. It is hard to find a better way to get lost in the present moment than scuba diving.

Once your head goes under, it is just you, your breathing, and the underwater world’s wonders. It is very easy then to treat diving as mindfulness and get lost in the corals, fish, light, and everything else in the marine environment. Again, this is another excellent positive link between scuba diving and mental health.

When diving, you can spend minutes stationary at a small coral pinnacle, watching some tiny coral crabs do their everyday business. Being fully immersed in a moment like this, you can reach a state of mindfulness where it is just you and the underwater world.

While swimming around the reef and admiring the bigger fish is exhilarating, it is often the little stuff that pays dividends regarding scuba diving and mental health. Cutting out the world except for yourself and breathing in the presence of a small creature living its life can produce some amazing moments of mindfulness.

It is easier to reach this state in warm tropical waters with lots of life and activity and where conditions are easy and straightforward.

Stress Reduction Through Diving

The benefits of scuba diving extend beyond mindfulness; in fact, scuba diving has a great positive effect on reducing stress. This is not some throw-away anecdotal saying where divers say I feel less stressed after diving.

Many pieces of research show that scuba diving positively impacts mental health. One article published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology found that participating in scuba diving improves mood and well-being and reduces stress more than other sports.

Perhaps that is why many divers seem to be happy, cheerful individuals.

When it comes to scuba diving and mental health, reducing stress and improving mood are win-wins for any diver. Arguably, that is why many divers say they feel at peace and have a sense of serenity when underwater and exploring the marine world!

Building Confidence and Overcoming Fears

Scuba diving can help many individuals build their confidence and overcome their fears on many different levels. This means that scuba diving and mental health go hand in hand since building confidence and overcoming fears can significantly improve your mental health.

On a fundamental level, being immersed in water and the risk associated with that is scary to most people on a primordial level. Simply by taking up diving, you confront and deal with that fear and anxiety. If you are a diver, reflect on the first time you cleared your fully flooded mask.

You will have felt a slight trepidation about whether you could do it and how well it would go. Now, you don’t even think about it and are confident you can clear your mask. On a very basic level, that is a small win for your mental health since it boosts your confidence.

Scuba Psychology | Emotions and Mental Aspect of Scuba Diving with Dr Laura Walton

At a much higher level, if you have a mild fear of the water (a phobic level of fear will need professional help first). Then, learning to scuba dive can be a great way to confront your fears and build your confidence.

The ultimate win would be turning your perception of the water from something you dread and fear into something you love and enjoy.

Scuba diving is also an excellent way for adaptive individuals to build confidence and overcome their fears. Many assume that diving is something that is beyond them. This is not true, and there are many adaptive divers out there.

Entering the water and enjoying diving as an adaptive diver only helps to build the confidence of the individual involved.

Scuba Diving and Therapeutic Programs

We know that scuba diving and mental health can go hand in hand, but can scuba diving be used as a therapeutic program?

The simple answer is yes. Over the last decade, scuba diving has been used as a form of therapy for both physical and psychological injuries.   

Many organizations have developed therapy methods based on the positive link between scuba diving and mental health. Scuba has been shown to help veterans suffering with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder PTSD. That is aside from all the other psychological benefits mentioned in the article.

Interestingly, there is some evidence that scuba diving positively impacts those with autism or a neurological or intellectual disability. However, the evidence is still weak in this area since it is poorly researched, and more work needs to be done.

Researchers have recently shown that diving can benefit individuals with physical disabilities. Aside from the psychological benefits like increased confidence and self-esteem, scuba divers with physical disabilities have reported many physical improvements, including increased motor skills in the water and reduced pain. The researchers concluded that diving can massively improve the quality of life of those involved.

Sam Helmy
Sam Helmy
Sam Helmy is a TDI/SDI Instructor Trainer, and PADI Staff and Trimix Instructor. Diving for 28 years, a dive pro for 14, I have traveled extensively chasing my passion for diving. I am passionate about everything diving, with a keen interest in exploration, Sharks and big stuff, Photography and Decompression theory. Diving is definitely the one and only passion that has stayed with me my whole life! Sam is a Staff Writer for