Naked In Wild Waters: The Incredible Benefits Of Skinny Dipping & Wild Swimming

July 8, 2022

If you’re beyond age 8 or so, you must have been told to wear a swimsuit to jump into waters. There’s a whole industry built around bikinis and swimsuits. Most of us are probably not regulars on nudist beaches but maybe you should give a second thought to leaving your swimwear at home.

I identify as a person who gets addicted to things easily. Now, don’t think drugs, but other kind of things. I used to be addicted to processed food, complaining, overthinking, and beating myself up. Nowadays, I’m addicted of nature, yoga, eating well and healing. And when I say healing, I mean all kind of healing methods of the soul. One of my favorites is re-parenting and inner child healing.

Both are approaches to recognizing and healing childhood trauma. Our behaviors as an adult stem from our childhood experiences. Inner child work focuses on addressing our unmet needs by re-parenting ourselves.

During the years of my inner child work, I have done lots of shadow work, journaling, hypnotherapy, etc, but none of them worked as much wonders as learning to listen to my inner child did. Do not worry, you don’t need to sit in silent meditation for hours until your legs go numb from sitting in lotus and you hear a child’s voice in your head telling you what she needs. It’s more like remembering. Yes, all I do is digging deep in my memories to find things I loved to do as a kid or things I always wanted to try but my caregivers never allowed me.

So I love to play in nature, collect herbs and wild flowers, and make potions or unique recipes from them. Coloring relaxes me, I love to jump and clap when something excites me (even if others think I’m ridiculous), I love to wear mismatched socks and collect rocks with unique patterns. And I love to tap my toes in every kind of water and swim naked. And no, not on nudist beaches. In fact, I’ve never been to one yet.

It was a balmy August day in Spain, when I first got into the sea topless. It was extremely hot and I was exhausted after a long day of walk on the El Camino, a pilgrimage route in the mountains. I’d just arrived at the accommodation in a monastery run by nuns. My roommate, a lovely German girl, was electrified by the weather and despite being knackered, she invited me to join her on the beach.
“But I have no swimsuit with me,” I objected.
“That is no problem, you can wear a plain panty and go topless, it’s normal in Spain,” she said. And she was right. I was only wearing my black hiking underwear and nothing else and no one gave a dime about us. Since then I became an advocate of wild swimming and skinny dipping. While some people like to skinny dip occasionally on their birthdays, on the first day of the year or when it gets dark, I skinny dip whenever and wherever I can. (In the worst case, I still keep my panties on not to offend anyone, but hey if guys can be topless, so should we.)

I blame my love for wild swimming on the late English naturalist and filmmaker Roger Deakin, who wrote the classic book Waterlog. Deakin loved breaking the rules and doing things his way, which for me is the most inspiring. Above all, he loved swimming in rivers, lakes, ponds and the sea.

I had fallen in love with his book at the same time I had fallen in love with wild swimming. Though here in Scotland I have yet to come to love cold waters as well. Unlike in Spain where every water I dipped in was relatively warm even on a colder day, here the water is quite chilly even on the hotter days.

It’s a magical way of collecting experiences as well. For me, after suffering for years from depression and anxiety, one of the main rules in life became “feel alive.” Probably, also an addiction, I chase every opportunity that excites my soul and makes my blood rush. I have been swimming in the seas, oceans, lakes, ponds, rivers, under waterfalls…

I love the sense of doing something in wild, untamable waters. I can’t get enough of the sense of excitement and same time, calmness while in the wild water and after I get out. It feels like a complete renewal, a therapy and cleanse.

I can deal with my bothering or negative thoughts and emotions and memories that arise, it also helped me to build my confidence, resilience and bravery. Wild swimming made it to my mindfulness activities as well and helped me tremendously to be present in the moment. It also plays a great role in strengthening the relationship between me and my partner, when we go nude wild swimming together. It creates a strong bond between us and brought us closer as we make happy new memories and play in the water. It also helped me to find my place in my new community when I met friends who share this passion for wild swimming with me.

If such a “radical” activity isn’t enough cause to celebrate the skinny-dipper leaping within you, also note that swimming regularly in cold water has been shown to have health benefits . While swimming in general is a great form of exercise for all ages as it can reduce the risk of chronic illnesses such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes and stroke, relieves stress, helps to strengthen your immunity and metabolism, stimulates your blood flow and circulation, and improves your sleep.

There is way less research on the benefits of skinny dipping, a 2017 review published in the Journal of Happiness Studies found that engaging in nude recreational activities had a positive impact on self-confidence, body image, and quality of life.

The review also examined past research regarding the relationship between parental nudity and its effects on children. Kids exposed to parental nudity during childhood were at a lower risk for drug usage and had higher rates of self-acceptance.

Go out and give it a try. Go somewhere you feel safe where no one’s going to stumble across you.

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Photo: Imola Toth

Imola is a Hatha and Ashtanga yoga teacher, tree planter and writer and editor of Raised by the Wolf, an online magazine for Wild Women, with a passion for exploring and life outdoors. Originally from Hungary but currently planting trees and rewilding the enchanting forests of France. Hop over to RBTW magazine, and blog and follow her on Instagram @yogiraisedbythewolf


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