Just Add Water

by Lisa Rosen on November 4, 2010

Everybody knows swimming is good exercise. It’s low-impact, easy on the joints, infinitely customizable. You can swim for strength, for endurance, for aerobic fitness, or just for fun.

Which is what usually draws me to the pool–fun. I find that swimming is even better than running for clearing my head. When I’m feeling really stressed or preoccupied or just unable to concentrate on writing, 30 or 40 minutes in the pool wipes my mind clean and leaves me calm and relaxed and focused.

It’s partly the rhythm of swimming–stroke, stroke, stroke, breathe. Stroke, stroke, stroke, breathe. The repetition is hypnotic. The constant focus on breathing is soothing, too–exhale through the nose, inhale through the mouth. Three beats out, one beat in. Repeat.

The black line in the bottom of the pool is also part of the equation. Swimming in open water, while it’s one of my favorite things to do in the whole wide world, is just not as zen–I have to think about navigation, water conditions, wildlife, etc. None of those things are bad, but they’re distractions, and if the goal is to empty my mind, I don’t want distractions.

Mostly, though, it’s the water. I think humans just have some kind of deep instinct that makes us love water. If you don’t love to swim, you probably love a hot tub, or a long soak in the bath. We love the sound of a babbling brook, a waterfall, waves crashing on the beach, rain pattering on the roof.

It seems to be inborn. When my children were tiny, one of my favorite sayings was “Cranky baby? Just add water.” The sound of water running into the sink can calm a fussy newborn. A splash in the tub can soothe an older baby. A big bucket of water can entertain a toddler. It’s just part of being human–water makes us feel better.

So next time your mental wheels are spinning unproductively, or you’re feeling like stabbing your office mate, make your way to the nearest body of water, and see if it doesn’t help.

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