Danielle McGinlay never saw herself as the kind of person who would enjoy plunging into icy lochs for pleasure. Now she can’t go more than a week without heading to Loch Lomond, where she immerses herself in the water come rain or shine, or even snow.
The 30-year-old mum from West Dunbartonshire took to cold water therapy after a tough 2020 saw her mental health suffer. She is now passionate about the benefits and about taking care of the outdoor spaces that have helped her so much.
She explained: “I hit a low point in September. I have had issues on and off with my mental health for years and returning to work in a nursing home last year during Covid, after being off for maternity leave, wasn’t easy. I was having panic attacks and couldn’t sleep.
“I came across a YouTube video about people who used cold water therapy to help their mental health. I had never done anything like that before but what did I have to lose?
“The first time I turned up to do it at Lomond Shores in Balloch, there were quite a few people there and I was too anxious to join in. I watched them though and it looked amazing so I waited until they had left and then got into the loch myself.
“That’s when it all started and I have found something that really works for me. Being out in nature, the way being in the cold water forces you to be completely in the present, there is no room for anxious thoughts or worries when you’re in the loch.
“It has really helped me manage my mental health. It has reduced my stress levels, I haven’t had a panic attack for months now and I am sleeping. It has also led me to hillwalking and meditation, another two things I never would have seen myself doing.
“I am the happiest and most content I have ever been. I thought for years that I was just one of those people who would always struggle but this really works for me.
“I think a lot of people have found a new connection with what’s on their doorstep during Covid. I have had such amazing benefits from spending time in the water and the hills that I am really passionate about looking after the place.
“We arrived at the bay recently to find loads of litter and bottles lying around and we decided to do a clean up. We got the kids involved too and posted on social media about it, highlighting how important it is for people to clean up after themselves when they visit beautiful places like this. It felt good to take care of the area.”