What my daily dipping journey has taught me.
You might have read my previous blog post about my daily dips, back when I reached 500 days of dipping (which I wrote over 1000 days ago!), where I shared a little about the story of what began my dipping journey, and what I came to learn in that first year and a half. My obsession with the water has continued, and I have a few more lessons (as well as some old ones) to share.
When There is a Will, There is (Usually) a Way
Sometimes dipping is glorious and easy - getting into still water on a sunny day is just dreamy. There are other days, however, that are not so picturesque. Choosing to get in the water whatever the day, weather and world throws at me has developed my ability to think creatively about the challenge I set myself. There have been castle moats, boating lakes, duck ponds (the worst!) and what can only be described as a glorified puddle...
I'm probably more cautious than most when it comes to the sea, so when conditions don't seem safe (or sometimes if it just looks too unappealing!) I'll take solitude in a rock pool, giving dog walkers a shock as they see me lying in a shallow pool of water, not moving. Other days when life is very full on, and I don't have a huge amount of time to dedicate to my dip - I'll immerse myself in a stream along a route I drive every day, giving myself a quick and easy option.
The challenge brings about a sense of adventure, and I've learnt my own tips and tricks for overcoming barriers to dip. However, the biggest challenge is usually the motivation to actually go do it - even after 4 + years of dipping, I still often put it off until later in the day!
Mantras Make Stories
Doing something that challenges me every day has built up my resilience, by showing myself that I can overcome, and I can do something that I don't really want to - because I know the benefits will be worth it. When I am going into the sea on a day I'd rather not; I find myself saying (usually aloud, as there's most often nobody else around) motivational statements to myself. One of my go-to sayings is "I can do hard things every day".
This might sound a little weird to some, but it is incredibly helpful and empowering, and those statements aren't just useful in the moment - they are words that are carried through to other parts of my day, and into my inner monologue. Our inner monologue is the story we carry around with ourselves, that creates the lens through which we interpret our world around us. My mantras have helped me to take a more can-do approach to things which might otherwise feel overwhelming.
I Can Do Anything For 90 Seconds
My minimum requirement for my dipping is 90 seconds. I once heard that you can get all of the benefits of cold water dipping from 90 seconds exposure. I never actually read into this to find out its truth - but I took it on as my baseline nonetheless.
I remember watching a TV programme once called "The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt", where the lead character explains "see you can handle just about anything for 10 seconds, then you just start on a new 10 seconds". Often I'll take my dipping one step at a time; rather than thinking about a whole big picture of being in the cold sea for a long time, I'll just get ready. Then I'll just get to the beach. Then I'll just get my feet wet...and by then I might as well get my whole body in, because I only count when my shoulders are under! Once I'm in I just count to 90. Although, if I've counted too quickly, I start again...but I usually start to enjoy it before I reach 90 and stay in longer just enjoying myself.
This is such a helpful approach to take towards other challenges too. When I'm overwhelmed with things that need doing, work, or jobs around the house....I'll just take it one step at a time.
I'm Braver Than I Think
I began my dipping journey, in part, to overcome my fear of the sea. I would be petrified of jelly fish, waves and sharks...as well as anything else living under the surface of the water (imaginary, or real)! I managed to overcome some of these fears - by getting to know the sea better, by improving my own ability in the water, and by rationalising some of the more irrational fears. Those fears still creep up from time to time, but they don't stop me from getting in. And the more I get in the water, the more evidence I have that those fears will be unfounded.
I used to regularly be told "you're braver than me" by beach walkers in the winter - pertaining to the freezing cold water. If only they knew that the cold was often the last thing on my mind, after all of the other worries I had! By getting in the water every day I have shown myself that I'm braver than I think. I can do things I'm very scared of, and be okay.
When I first began my daily dipping, I intended to go for one month. Little did I know that it would stretch out to 49 months. One I got the ball rolling, it was hard to drop it. I haven't wanted to let go, with the fear that I might swing too far the other way and struggle to find the motivation to get in at all. However, after holding up this self-made rule for so long, I've finally decided to loosen the reins. Whilst I haven't yet actually missed a day since reaching the accomplishment of 1500 days, I have decided that I am letting go of my daily dip, and allowing myself a little more grace.
This decision has hugely been influenced by another decision - to visit one of my favourite places in the world, Sri Lanka, later in the year, and knowing that it will not be possible to continue with my daily dipping whilst travelling around, without it severely impacting the experience. Whilst a lot of the time my dipping brings adventure and fun, it can also bring about a lot of stress at times. When I'm off my feet busy, when I'm away visiting friends or family, or when I'm staying somewhere new. Until now I've always found ways to overcome this, but I know that finding somewhere safe to dip is a much bigger challenge whilst moving around a country that genuinely does have sharks, crocodiles and sea snakes to be cautious of - as well as the challenge of being inland.
With this in mind, I have decided to ease off on my rule before then - if there's a day where the stress of dipping would outweigh the benefits of getting in the water, I'm not going to force myself. After keeping it up for so long, I'm finally allowing myself to drop the ball.
I don't want to lose my relationship with the sea, and I am nervous that my self discipline won't be strong enough to keep going in regularly, with my "all or nothing" approach...but I'm looking forward to this new angle of my challenge, to see whether I can keep it up, without the daily rule hanging over me.