Water You Feeling?
Ever wondered why taking a shower is so soothing? Or why being in or near water puts you at peace? Well, if so, let me introduce you to what we call “the Mammalian Diving Response”.
In humans, this response is triggered by wetting the face and nostrils, coming into greater effect when one holds their breath. It can be seen in infants as young as six months old, so they too can perform infant swimming. The heartbeat slows down, and you feel at peace. This is why washing your face helps cope with anxiety – it gives you a sense of familiarity, and can help during a panic attack. An experiment conducted on free divers in 1962 confirms this phenomenon. When this response is flicked on, brain activity increases and the pressure on the lungs lessens.
The mammalian diving reflex is an evolved method of lung-bearing animals to cope with extended periods under water, and although reduced in humans, this fish-brain activation leads to peace and calm. Swimming in the pool, hydrating face masks, walking in the rain, and standing on the beach, all trigger this phenomenon and instill a feeling of serenity. So, the next time you have trouble dragging any of your friends away from the beach; remember it’s not them – it’s just their mammalian instincts calling!