I hadn’t intended to write anything to coincide with this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week – in my view, we should be able and willing to talk about mental health any time we want and not need a special week for it.
But I changed my mind. This morning I went for my regular early dip in the sea, which most of the time I do on my own. But today was different, as I swam with a friend who went in for the first time: I ‘popped his cherry’ – his words, not mine!
And watching his experience made me reflect and remind myself how important the benefits are for me.
I started sea swimming a couple of years ago as a way of helping manage my own mental health issues. Admittedly, I took the ‘easy’ route to begin with, by starting in summer when the water is a touch warmer (admittedly it rarely gets very warm in the UK), but soon realised how good it is for me.
I rarely pass up the opportunity to float on my back and gaze up at the sky (whatever remarkable colour it may be), with my ears submerged to block out most of the ambient noise from the nearby road and beach.
Those moments of semi-solitude, sealed off from the rest of the world, never fail to provide simultaneous feelings of calm and delight. I can pretend I’m almost anywhere in the world.
This morning it was raining as we swam, but we marvelled at the different shades of greys in the clouds and how it merged and contrasted with the blues of the sea.
It also reminded me that, even though I pretty much swim in the same place most of the time, the view is different every day, and I never tire of it.
That feeling of being at one with nature is remarkably special and I feel extremely lucky and privileged to be able to enjoy it.
So wherever and whenever you interact with nature this week (and beyond), take a moment to stop, breathe in deeply, smell the air and look around you.
And, to paraphrase Dr Frasier Crane, may I wish you all good mental health.