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When you picture a skydiver, you probably don’t picture a world-class thinker. After all, they’ve got awesomeness points to spare–but are there mental benefits of skydiving? As a matter of fact, there are. We can think of five, right off the bat–and that’s just getting started.
Every last one of us is subject to stresses that test our mettle and our resilience. That’s one of the essential challenges of being human, no? However, handling stress in your daily life is also a sport–or, at least–it should be approached as such. Seriously. It’s the kind of thing you have to train for in order to do effectively. Psychology calls this sport “resilience,” and people who develop this response system are less anxious, quicker to learn, and clearer-headed when making decisions.
Training your mind and body to respond effectively, immediately and correctly to stressful inputs is one of those fundamental skills that surprisingly few people pick up. In lieu of handling stress like a boss, it’s easy to rely on crutches to get through the emotional valleys along the way to the next peak: chemicals; emotional hibernation; ice cream. Lots of folks can pretty much make it from cradle to grave with this method, especially if their lives don’t regularly require them to face situations with life-and-death importance to themselves or others (for instance, first responders; soldiers; surgeons).
Their quality of life certainly suffers. These stresses have a tendency to build up on each other and build layer after layer, leaving an impenetrable veneer on the sufferer’s underlying personality, like a consistently unwashed bathtub that nobody wants to get into anymore.
The only solution? Start scrubbing.
Skydiving is a great cognitive training ground. Undergoing stress within the context of skydiving’s managed risks helps to keep the brain sharp and supple. It helps you to be very clear on your coping mechanisms; helps you inspect them and revise them as you go. The knock-on benefits include better performance and self-confidence, both at work and at home. Pretty cool, huh?
Saying “exercise is healthy, and skydiving is exercise” oversimplifies this a bit. Of course: when you engage in meaningful physical activity, you handily distract yourself from daily stressors and shake off the shackles of the negative thoughts that bog you down when you’re sedentary. Your level of stress hormones drops; your endorphins spike. That combination of chemicals sets you up for relaxation and optimism, but the true magic of skydiving is that, on each jump, you’re training yourself to be cognitively agile. Sweating out the physical element of a skydive is like warming up before you stretch; it’s the mental flexibility that gives your mood room to move in the smiley direction.
The skydiving community helps crystallize these effects. Lifelong friendships are cemented at the dropzone between like-minded folks–and the true, fast friendships that form there help to give a soulful frame to a healthy, well-lived life.
Skydiving rips off your blinders. You can’t make a safe skydive without honing the skill of paying attention to everything that’s going on around you. As your peripheral awareness and reaction times get better and better in the sky, they get better on the ground, too. You’ll start noticing that you always seem to catch an egg that’s rolling off the counter, a coffee cup that your coworker’s headphone cord is tugging inexorably toward their laptop; a cell phone that’s decided to swan-dive into a toilet. It’s kind of a Keanu-Reeves-in-The-Matrix moment every time it happens.
Skillful communication is one of the cornerstones of clear cognition and skydiving trains that skill uniquely well. Co-imagining, then strategizing, planning and executing a skydive with a group of cooperating others leads to better communication in all the other areas of life. Confidence in several areas–introducing yourself to new groups, contributing ideas and briefing after-the-fact–comes conveniently along with the package.
…When you’re not up late telling stories around the dropzone campfire, that is.
We want you to add your stories to the Wisconsin Skydiving Center community lore! Learn to skydive with us, so we can show you just how many incredible benefits of skydiving you can enjoy once you get that A-License.