At Nexus Recovery Services, in addition to the wide array of traditional therapeutic modalities, we also offer more non-traditional therapies like surf therapy. You might be wondering – how does surfing play a role in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction?
There are several studies that support the positive effects of surfing on our mental health. In a 2011 study 100 surfers were found to have significantly fewer symptoms of anxiety and depression and to employ better coping strategies than the general population. In a second study conducted in 2014, combat veterans with PTSD were taught to surf, and they reported significantly fewer symptoms and a greater sense of well-being after several weeks of regular surfing. Another study at the University of Iowa demonstrated that surfing is shown to inspire increase and improve mood within 30 minutes of hitting the beach.
At Nexus, we think of surfing as a sort of “Vitamin Sea.” A vitamin in the sense that when practiced, or taken regularly, has genuine benefits to our bodies, mind, and overall well-being. Our holistic approach to dual-diagnosis drug treatment incorporates surfing for its several healing benefits:
- Negative Ions in the Air & Sand Help with “Grounding.” Beach air contains extra electrons, making it “negatively charged” due to its interaction with water molecules. These negative ions can actually help calm down your brain as well as relieve depression. Negative charges are also found in the sand. When surfers walk barefoot on the beach or touch the ocean floor with their feet, they are connecting their bodies to a negatively charged supply of energy. This is called “grounding,” and it works because our feet have a rich array of nerves and acupuncture points, which absorb free ions from the earth’s surface similar to the way our lungs absorb them from the air.
- Physical Activity Helps Bodies Heal from Addiction. Some surfers call the ocean their “blue gym,” in recognition of the fact that surfing is also great physical exercise. Paddling provides a cardiovascular workout, as well as strengthening the arms. Rising to a stand on the board, and staying balanced while upright, puts great demand on the muscles of the legs, back, and core.
- The Blue of the Ocean is Therapeutic. The ocean is colored blue adding to the healing effect of surf therapy. As any marketing person or designer can testify, the color itself has been found to be calming. In fact, the Global Healing Center recommends the practice of stress reduction by surrounding yourself with the color blue. Surfing literally immerses us in different hues of blue, calming the brain by changing brain wave frequency and putting us in a mild, meditative state.
- The Sound of Waves is Soothing and Helps Our Brains & Bodies Achieve Mindfulness. Our brains are also calmed by the sound of the waves, another pathway to entering a state of greater awareness and calm, also known as “mindfulness” The sounds and visuals we absorb while surfing activates the parasympathetic nervous system, the built-in “braking system” that slows us down, relaxes us, and promotes greater resiliency and engagement. This state increases memory, reasoning ability, and empathy, whereas the parts of the brain responsible for activating stress actually have been shown to shrink in size.
- Being Out on the Ocean Can Give Us Perspective. Surfing on the ocean can enhance our spiritual well-being. Feeling ourselves to be just small, human beings on a gigantic, powerful ocean helps us “right-size” our egos, our problems, and our fears. Surfing is not just recreation – it is re-creation.