I will be the first to admit that I have often struggled with my mental health. Whether I feel like I am sliding down a slippery slope, or I just cannot get the motivation up to get on with my long list of tasks,
I often place a lot of blame and attention on myself for what I cannot do, or what is beyond me that day.
This was a problem for me up until I discovered a hobby in surfing.
There is a freedom I have discovered in attempting something new knowing full well that you will fail the first few times you try. I think this indirectly builds resilience that can spill over into other things in life – helping you to realize that it is even ok to fail at things you think you should know how to do well by now. That is true presence and something I am still exploring.
Mental health is a very complex instrument and a multidimensional concept that involves many psychological factors but also social and emotional variables.
Surfing is inherently simple. It is you, the board, and the waves. So, what is the connection here?
I am not a mental health professional, but here is what I have found. The simple fact that you are going out of your way to introduce a new habit into your daily routine disrupts your old thinking and feeling cues and makes you observe them more objectively before they affect your mood. With surfing, you are waiting for nature to send you the perfect wave. That is another way of saying effectively you are slowing down, injecting some peace into your life, and allowing things to work themselves out on their own. Waiting faster or harder will not bring you waves that are any better than those that come when you are calm and accepting.
Truly allowing this tranquility into our lives is a remedy to the crazy schedule we hold down to provide for those around us, one that we so often accept without any thought as to how it could be optimized to give us more time to do the things we love. Picking up a hobby like surfing allows us to take a step back and objectively assess our own situation.
Additionally, surfing is quite a physically demanding activity. The challenges associated with surfing are varied and include high intensity paddling to catch a wave, push-ups to stand up on the surfboard, and a well-developed sense of balance. Research has shown that physical activity has a positive effect on multiple areas of the brain. Physical activity can change activity in the amygdala and hippocampus, which are both involved in our responses to threat and stress.
So now it is clear how the amazing benefits of fresh air, salt and sunshine can positively influence your mental health, the next stage to hanging ten is to plan your first surfing trip.
I am only speaking of where I have visited because I can give an informed decision, but feel free to do your own research. I stayed at Charlie’s Shack during my time in Lombok in Indonesia, a self-proclaimed Bar & Grill with a Bed and Breakfast option. Located very close to all the major surfing destinations in the area, this was a solid 10/10 decision. I indulged in great food, got to learn proper surfing technique, and made some lifelong memories. I could not possibly recommend them enough for your next surfing adventure in the area.