Are you afraid of swimming with sharks? Research shows that swimming alongside a shark can be extremely beneficial to your mental health. The reason has to do with a sense of awe and surprise.
You do not have to swim alongside a great white shark to get the benefits of swimming alongside a shark or whale. In fact, most people who swim alongside sharks do so alongside a whale shark. This is a filter feeder that does not hunt. Instead it filters microscopic plankton and small fish as it opens its enormous mouth. The whale shark poses no risk to humans.
Researchers believe that when a person sees such a massive animal that they cannot really understand it creates a feeling of awe. This is considered to be a highly positive emotion that increases altruism and wellbeing afterwards.
The actual science behind the positive effects from swimming with sharks has to do with our amygdala. This is our part of the brain that controls emotional responses. When we saw animals, our amygdala is activated. Animals that do not pose a threat to us seem to have a positive and stimulating effect on us.
The effect of animals on us goes back to our hunter-gatherer roots. Their effect on us seems to be hard-wired in our biology. Not only can being around animals or swimming with fish be uplifting, but it can also make us healthier. Interacting with animals seems to strengthen our immune system. So, the next time you are feeling down, try swimming with a shark to make yourself happier and healthier. The effects of swimming with sharks also seem to be long-term and not just temporary.