Freezing waters of Loch Lomond helping women cope with life's troubles

The Watermind group - set up by a woman coping with grief during Covid - has supported 1,000 women across Scotland with cold water therapy.

On one of the first days of spring, dozens of women wearing just swimsuits and woolly hats stepped into the freezing waters of Loch Lomond.

With little encouragement, they wade out to waist height, hesitating only to catch their breath. 

Then, as they plunge their shoulders under the surface, come the cheers. 

Cold water swimming has become hugely popular in the last few years. And these women are now using Scotland’s lochs, waterfalls and rivers as a means of therapy.

‘Magic juice’

Watermind was founded during the coronavirus pandemic by Shirley Scott.

STV News

She found herself close to breaking point, as she juggled having to home school her two sons and working full-time while navigating the breakdown of her relationship. 

Furthermore, she lost her aunt Anne, one of the most important people in her life, to cancer.

Shirley told Scotland Tonight: “She was only 55. She was alone in the hospital for weeks on her own. I didn’t get to see her. Didn’t get to say goodbye when everybody else did. So that didn’t sit well with me at all. It was a really, really, really difficult time.”

Shirley and Anne.Contributed

Shirley said she struggled with anxiety and panic attacks, which she had previously been able to control.

“I couldn’t sleep. I was up during the night sweating, thinking that I was having a heart attack. I was going to phone myself an ambulance. I knew something needed to change because I could feel myself slowly going into a wee hole. I just knew I wasn’t coping. In other words, I just felt I wasn’t me.”

One day, while scrolling through social media, Shirley saw a video of someone using a cold water tub.

She was instantly curious and ordered one that she put in her back garden. But it wasn’t until a day trip to Loch Lomond with her sister and a friend when she finally took the plunge. 

STV News

“That all kind of disappeared in a week,” she said. “I was only thinking about what I had just done, and felt so relaxed and calm.

“I just thought ‘I really need to try this again because it’s done something to me here’. I felt so much happier. I had such a spring in my step, I felt as if I found this thing that I had been waiting for. It’s like ‘where has this been all my life?’”

Shirley began travelling across Scotland, finding new bodies of water to practice her newfound passion. Before long she was inspired to share what she had discovered and set up Watermind.

‘You walk into that water and you let it go’

Helped by her partner, Dougie, Shirley has now hosted more than 1,000 women at her events.

Several times a month, she will take a yoga session, and lead dance, chants and affirmations. 

The practice benefited Shirley and is now a lifeline for so many others.

Donna Quinn came to her first session just a few weeks after her 15-year-old son, Logan, passed away. 

Donna and Logan.Contributed

She said: “It was so outwith my comfort zone because I’m somebody who likes the heated blanket on and sitting in front of the radiator, not jumping into the cold water.

“But I really felt the connection…the power of all the other women round about me and I just thought, I don’t know any of their circumstances.

“They all probably had to do a lot to take time out and come along that day, organise childcare and take that decision to say ‘I’m taking those couple of hours out for me’. And I just found it really, really magical.

STV News

“We actually held Logan’s funeral service just a few miles down the road at Ardoch, so this is somewhere that’s become very special. 

“I feel [Logan] when we’re here. Quite often we’re treated to a rainbow as well. I just feel really close to him.”

It is that connection with lost loved ones through nature that Shirley finds so powerful.

“Every single time I’m in the water, I feel as if I’m with my auntie.

“I think that’s the closest that you’re ever going to get to your lost loved ones. Because I think when you go you just become part of the earth, there’s nowhere else.”

You can watch Scotland Tonight: Cold Water Wellbeing on STV at 8:30pm on Thursday night, or catch up on the STV Player

STV News is now on WhatsApp

Get all the latest news from around the country

Follow STV News
Follow STV News on WhatsApp

Scan the QR code on your mobile device for all the latest news from around the country

WhatsApp channel QR Code