Surf therapy: a new way to treat anxiety, stress, and PTSD
The Naval Medical Center San Diego (NMCSD) is among the institutions researching the possibility of using a new form of therapy to treat PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), anxiety, and stress.
The physical and psychological benefits of surfing are something many enthusiasts can attest to. Scientists have been working to establish the exact mechanism and value of this form of rehabilitation.
The NMCSD studies were prompted by studies that show an increasing number of people diagnosed with PTSD. More than 8 percent of adults in America will have PTSD in their lifetime.
Between 2001 and 2011, the number of active-duty military personnel diagnosed with the condition increased by 65 percent.
Researchers believe it can effectively treat a number of other mental health conditions, such as anxiety, depression, and stress.
Surf therapy can be thought of as a form of adventure that can be appealing to young people who are underserved by other forms of treatment.
Benefits of Surf Therapy
Surf therapy could prove to be beneficial for treating mental health conditions for the following reasons:
Emotional Wellbeing: According to the Wave Project
A British surf therapy charity study indicated an improvement in mental and emotional well-being for young people who had experienced trauma and other psychological issues.
The therapy yielded consistent week-in-week-out improvements in self-management, communication, and cultivation of a positive outlook on the young participants.
The therapy does not require medication and is free from the side effects that come with medication-based therapies.
It is a holistic form of therapy that promotes mental, psychological, and spiritual well-being. A holistic approach is much more effective compared to therapies that are non-integrated.
You only need a surfboard and the ocean. You may initially require a trainer, but the therapy will prove to be cheaper than other alternatives in the long run.
Why it Works
In order to make the most of this form of therapy, researchers are trying to establish why it is effective for psychological conditions such as PTSD, anxiety, and even substance abuse. Here are the reasons why it could be one of the best forms of rehabilitation:
Surfing is a form of adventure or outdoor therapy. Research indicates it is particularly effective in treating anxiety and stress. Researchers say it is beneficial because:
Adolescents and adults are constantly engaged in activities that involve a lot of screen time on the computer and the smartphone.
Surf therapy gives the opportunity to unplug and engage in therapeutic, outdoor activities.
Alternative Psychotherapeutic Intervention
It gives an alternative to those who are not responsive to other forms of intervention. It has been found to be effective for adolescents who may not find traditional therapies appealing.
It is a form of treatment that is fun and enjoyable. Participants are, therefore, likely to see it as a form of recreation rather than a monotonous treatment protocol.
It engages participants who voluntarily involve themselves physically and psychologically.
The Psychological Power of Awe
Awe is defined as the feeling of wonder and reverence mixed with feelings of fear when experiencing something vast or novel. Nothing inspires awe like the vastness of the ocean.
It may be compared to looking at the stars and contemplating the universe that appears to stretch into eternity.
A 2015 study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology indicates that awe inspires a sense of well-being, loving kindness, and magnanimity.
Why does it work? According to the researchers, the feeling, though short-lived and hard to define, encourages us to look beyond ourselves and consider our situation without the temptation to be preoccupied with narrow self-interests.
In addition, they believe this sense of reverence can inspire people to be more loving, more likely to volunteer, and adopt a more loving attitude towards others.
Surfing requires a fairly high degree of concentration or focus. You are forced to maintain focus as you glide through the waves.
Therefore you tend to gravitate away from other negative thoughts, even if for only a limited period of time. The fact that it is done outdoors and is a fun activity makes it easier to keep the mind focused.
Surfing is a good form of exercise that promotes physical fitness. In one hour, an average person can burn around 240 calories per hour. It is also a low-impact form of exercise suitable for people of all ages.
The focus required to surf, combined with the adrenaline rush, helps to promote a sense of mental and physical well-being.
Many studies have confirmed the benefits of exercise in promoting self-confidence, the mind’s ability to cope with stress, and alleviating anxiety.
Additionally, dopamine promotes a sense of well-being that counters the distress experienced by people struggling with various forms of addiction.
This makes it ideal for addressing mental health conditions, alcoholism, and substance abuse.
Taking Up Surf Therapy
If you are struggling with anxiety, depression, or PTSD, you can take up this form of therapy by signing up for programs arranged by charities and non-profit networks.
These programs have trainers that guide participants so that they can overcome the mental health challenges they are going through.
There are treatment programs near you that you can find by doing a quick search online.
Researchers have established that surf therapy is effective in treating conditions such as PTSD, anxiety, and depression and preventing suicidal thoughts.
Surf therapy is particularly impactful for adolescents and adults that are not responsive to conventional therapies because it is not appealing.
It is a low-cost, evidence-based treatment suitable for people of all ages. There are several programs that you can sign up for, even if you don’t live near the sea or have never surfed before.
Further, research is being conducted to establish the exact mechanisms and modalities to enhance surf therapy for the treatment of several mental conditions.
Words by Patrick Bailey | Professional Writer | Mental Health, Addiction, and Living in Recovery | patrickbaileys.com