Mental Techniques for Freediving

A great dive starts in your head. After all, don’t we say freediving is looking inside yourself?

There is no way to explore your depth without sharpening your mind on the mental techniques’ s whetstones. These mind preparations will change your approach to deep diving for the better. After being very serious about training my mind, I started to see my freediving from a completely different angle. Before that, I was stuck. Impossible to dive deeper. Not because of my Equalization. My mouthfill was consistently trained through RV training, and  It was great. Not because my CO2 friend was bothering me. No Sir! I am always welcoming him for a “contractions party.” Not because of a hypoxic issue. I always push carefully. My issue? Very simple! I was shit scared to go deeper. The first thing, and certainly the most difficult, has been to admit it. Once it was done, I started to look at how I could solve that anxiety. This was the moment, the light in the dark, and from there, I never dived the same way.

Many mental techniques exist, from Neuro-linguistic programming (NPL) to self Hypnosis passing by other fancy New age things. But I decided to stick to the basics. Maybe because I have been in contact with mindfulness and vipassana in India. I started with that, then, very quickly, I kept exploring how to program my mind through visualization and mental imagery. When I became Molchanovs Instructor, I discovered the “Deconcentration of attention.” I have to say, that is my favorite at the moment. And very lately, I found out about the “Anchor.”

Visualization, Mindfulness, Deconcentration, and the Anchor: here are the four mental techniques I am using and the ones we will discuss during this article. I will also tell you how I organize my deep dives using them.

Let’s start

Visualization

Imagining on dry your dives in great detail and mentally rehearsing every movement will make them automatic and instinctive. Perfect duck dive, finning technique, mouthfill, freefall, etc… In the water will save brain power and time. What convinced me about “mental imagery” or “visualization” is the training of the “ Patrouille de France.” ( Astérix 50 ans et la Patrouille de France). If these people used this technique, I have absolutely no doubt that it would work. And indeed, it did work. I corrected a lot of details of my dive using it.

When and where Do I use it?

I exclusively practice visualization on dry. But It can also be done at the buoy just before a dive.

Mindfulness

Mindfulness is the ability to be fully present. To be aware of where we are and what we’re doing without being overwhelmed by what’s happening around and inside us. I first started by observing my breath. I spent considerable time doing that, and I cannot overstate how boring it is. Boring, but It tremendously increased my focus. Then I began to scan my body, part by part, piece by piece, observing the sensations on it. All this without judgment.  It means you watch, you feel, and you do not react. It may sound easy but believe me. It is not. If the sensation is just some tingling, no problem, but if it is a pain in the legs or back, it is another story. Resilience comes with practice. In my case… a lot of practice.

What are the benefits for freediving?

Benefit 1: Breathing through your nose while observing your breath will trigger a calm response. A great thing to do before a dive.

Benefit 2: Scanning your body, piece by piece, will bring you great awareness. Very useful to correct your body position and technique, open or close the glottis, soft palate control, release physical tension…

But…Mindfulness is more than just a body scan.

Benefit 3: Seating without moving for at least 30 minutes will make you resilient. Observing the pain in your legs without reacting to it will train your mind to accept the discomfort and stay at peace with it.

Why doing that? Well, Because Freediving is also staying calm and peaceful while being in an uncomfortable situation. And Mindfulness is the way to achieve that.

Deconcentration of attention

Imagine you are on the beach on a beautiful night. You are watching the sky in search of a shooting star.

If you focus on just one part of the sky, you will miss the shooting stars happening elsewhere. Instead, watch the whole sky through your whole field of vision.

By doing so, you are deconcentrating.

Alright!!! And?

Benefit 1: Deconcentration of attention brings internal silence. It slows down your metabolism and reduces brain energy consumption.

Benefit 2: By deconcentrating, you take distance from what is happening to you. You become detached, allowing you to analyze the situation without emotion and to react faster if needed.

How do I deconcentrate in the water?

Because I am counting my pulls and kicks (basically, I am concentrating) before starting my freefall, I cannot apply it during the first part of my dive. Impossible to concentrate and deconcentrate at the same time, right?

However, Deconcentration of attention is the best mental strategy approach during freefall.

The internal silence it provides matches perfectly with the constant pressure of the mouthfill. That is perfection.

The Anchor

This mental technique is used on the buoy before a dive. I Love this one.

The anchor is something you do (it can be as simple as wearing your nose clip) or say to yourself, which will switch your “full dive mode” ON. Inside yourself, hidden, there is the best freediver you can be, the depth conqueror, super confident, super relaxed, with a god-level duck dive and an equalization skill so good that Andrea Zucarry himself would call you to get some advice about his Middle ear. The Anchor is bringing to the light this superhero freediver.

I compare it to auto-hypnosis. You are now fully focused on your dive. Nothing else matters. Nothing else exists except the best you, the buoy, the line, and your goal.

It needs to be implanted deep into the mind through repetition and conditioning.

Find your anchor and practice on dry first. You trigger the switch and let self-confidence and relaxation flow through your mind and body. You repeat the process again and again. Then you do the same before your dive, again and again. Until you unconsciously connect your anchor and the freediver, you are dreaming of being.

Your anchor is secret. Do not share the specifics with anyone. Yes, yes, like in the movie “Inception.”

My approach to deep diving

How do I organize my dive?

There are many ways to use these mental techniques during a dive. You will have to try and find your recipe.

I am constantly improving and experiencing with my mental strategies. It is the beauty of it. It evolves with your freediving level and with the goals you want to achieve.

That being said, let me explain my mental strategy for deep diving.

At the surface: 

I am not doing any visualization or mindfulness. I prefer to focus on nasal breathing and my anchor “personal ceremony.” 

The first 30m: 

I am very mindful. I pay attention to my technique, the feeling of the water on the back of my fins, my face, and the rope in my hand when I pull. I know exactly how many kicks or pulls I need to reach the mouthfill charge point and how many more before freefalling.

Freefall: 

The first thing I do is a quick body scan. I make sure my body position is correct. Then I pass into “deconcentration of attention” mode. I open my eyes, and I watch through the line into the infinite blue. 10m from the bottom, the only alarm I use rings. I get ready for the touchdown. 5-4-3-2-1 Touchdown.

If I lose the “deconcentration vibes,” I redo a quick body scan, correct my body position if needed, and start again.

The way up: 

I keep my eyes open and focus on the sides of my field of vision. I usually stop when I meet my safety and return to my sensations.

What I just described, a perfect dive happens very rarely. It is still a work in progress. My main goal at the moment is to fine-tune all these details. 

But I truly love that journey, and I hope you will find inspiration in these lines to dig into the amazing world of the mind and discover a new way to enjoy your quest for depth.

Keep diving, keep exploring, and stay safe. Boooom