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The oceans effect on a scuba addict

I always knew I wanted to dive. When I was little, we had a fish tank in our living room with a sandy bottom, a cracked upside down flower pot, some kind of sweet water plants providing oxygen and lots of tiny little colourful fish. Me and our cat were the only family members that really seemed to care about our little prisoners.

Besides studying the fish in our living room I also found a tv show about fish. Every Sunday morning before anyone else was up, I would sneak out of bed at 7 am to watch the adventures of Jacques Cousteau just before the cartoons started.

The man was a pioneer of his time and invented what became modern day scuba diving. Travelling the world and seven seas, Jacques and his crew were on adventures that were beyond the fish tank in our living room. Swimming with sharks and exploring remote atoll islands, I knew one day I had to see it all.

Then came the day I realized that scuba diving was not only for legends like Captain Cousteau but also for mortals like myself and I knew it was something I had to do. It was a Sunday morning probably twenty years after the cat had pushed over the fish tank, that I entered a small resort pool fully equipped feeling like legend Cousteau himself. Breathing under water, mimicking the PADI exercises all came natural to me. From then on it opened a world I never imagined existed. And still today after 15 years of diving all over the world it never gets boring or stops to amaze.

I always wondered why being around the ocean is so addictive to some of us. Of course being on holiday on the beach or going for a dive when you normally have a busy 24/7 city life, is all very relaxing. But apparently there is a more scientific explanation.

Researchers have shown that we are happier and healthier when we are in or around water. They called it the “blue mind” and our proximity to water increases the levels of certain “feel-good” hormones such as dopamine and oxytocin within the human brain. At the same time, levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, drop significantly. Dopamine is the well-known brain chemical responsible for your addiction to music concerts, sex and cake (all the good stuff).

My family members (all dive virgins) often asks me if always being under water (which is not the case when you manage a busy dive operation or liveaboard) never gets boring?

So to the non-divers I would like to explain the ‘blue mind’ like this. When you decide to visit the cheesecake shop you heard so much about. You order your cheese cake. It arrives and it is looking even better than you thought it would. That pure moment of happiness? Is the dopamine response firing to a better than expected pleasure.

That first bite is everything you hoped it would be and better. It is heaven on earth and you get another hit of dopamine. Before you realize it, you eat the whole thing and leave the shop feeling intensely satisfied. It might have been so good, that at night in your bed you dream about this wonderful culinary creation and you decide that life is great.

Several days later, you’re thinking about cheese cake again. Craving for another hit of pleasure you find yourself going back to the cheese cake shop.

The experience is amazing and almost as good as the first time you went. But now the flavours are even more intense and the top of the cake is slightly crunchy which surprises you but you love it.

Then as time goes on you decide to go every Sunday for cheese cake. In our case we decided to explore a career in “cheese cake” (read diving).

With the current covid lockdown there is only take away cheese cake and most shops are closed completely. But hopefully cheese cake shops around the world will open again soon. So we can all go back to getting our hit of pure pleasure to feed the hungry ‘divers blue mind’.

By (March 23th, 2021)

Photograph J. Cousteau by Cine Text/Sportsphoto/AllStar (Edited by Travel2Sea)

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