It might not surprise many people to learn that sailing does wonders for the soul. But what about the mind? Can sailing be good for your mental health as well? The answer is a resounding yes!
Sailing can be an enjoyable and rewarding experience. It can also be a therapeutic and helpful activity for positive mental health. The calming nature of being on the water and interacting with wind, waves, and marine life has been shown to ease the symptoms of mental health disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety, and more.
Sailing is the perfect antidote to mental health issues. It can help you relax, get out of your head, and exercise. Studies have proven it’s a legitimate treatment for people with severe mental disorders. The study found that the research participants’ positive effects on the body and mind were measurable up to 12 months after their sailing therapy sessions.
Immersed in an awe-inspiring environment, we can disconnect from chaos and connect with nature. Scientific studies have proven that just being in proximity to water can improve mental wellbeing. Breathing deepens and slows down, and our stress levels plummet.
The Mental Health Benefits of Sailing
The mental health benefits of sailing are tangible. Being on the water stimulates the production of serotonin, dopamine, and oxytocin (fundamental substances for mental health) that provide us with calm, relaxation, and well-being. Here are a few essential benefits sailing can have on your mental health:
Sailing typically requires you to expend effort and exercise, so you’ll be spending time engaging in light to moderate physical activity, which is good for your mental health. Scientific studies show that regular physical exercise is good for mental health, reducing stress and symptoms of anxiety, and even preventing the onset of depression. Plus, regular exercise can keep you in better physical shape, increasing your confidence, allowing you to partake in other activities you love, and extending your lifespan.
THE APPEAL OF THE WATER
One study from the University of Exeter Medical School found that people who live close to the water are 22 % less likely to report symptoms of depression and anxiety than people who live further inland. It’s not entirely clear why this effect exists, but many competing hypotheses could explain it, including:
- Feelings of safety and security. Looking at water may give people a primal sense of safety and security. Water is essential for life, so even though we live in a modern society with ample running water, having a body of water nearby can give you a sense of comfort.
- Extensive horizon viewing. Gazing at the extended horizon over a body of water can also comfort you. It relaxes the eyes and gives people a better sense of their surroundings, so the primal part of the brain doesn’t fear uncertainty or the possibility of an ambush.
- Ambient sounds. For some people, the benefits of being by the water include the ambient sounds it creates. For example, gentle, rolling waves or the trickle of a running river can be highly comforting.
- The color blue. Though not fully understood, studies show that people find the color blue calming and relaxing.
MINDFULNESS AND RELAXATION
Mindfulness and mindfulness meditation — being mindful in the present moment — effectively produces many benefits for practitioners, including increasing self-control, improving emotional regulation, and stimulating feelings of wellbeing. While sailing isn’t the same as mindfulness meditation, relaxing by heading onto the water and temporarily eliminating distractions from your life can provide similar benefits.
On the water, you’ll be away from your main stressors in life, such as your work and household responsibilities. You’ll also be isolated enough to be away from annoyances and other distractions.
SUNLIGHT AND VITAMIN D
Sailing is usually done in good weather, meaning it’s an opportunity to get plenty of sunlight. A wide variety of positive mental health effects are connected to regular exposure to sunlight.
For example, studies show that sunlight increases the production of serotonin in the brain, a “feel-good” molecule that can improve your mood and increase your sense of personal wellbeing. However, when there’s less sunlight in the winter, many people experience a significant drop in serotonin – primarily responsible for seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
Additionally, it’s shown that a lack of vitamin D is highly correlated with symptoms of depression. So people who aren’t getting enough vitamin D are disproportionately likely to feel the effects of depression. But one of the primary ways we get vitamin D is by absorbing natural sunlight – and being on a sailboat is perfect for that!
Exposure to sunlight has a ton of other benefits as well, including reducing your risk of cancer (as long as you’re wearing sunscreen), improving bone health, and treating certain types of skin conditions.
Set Sail With Community Sailing of Colorado
A day of sailing on the lake is good for you! Enjoy a peaceful, leisurely sail, or get the adrenalin pumping with excitement in a sailing race. We offer instruction for people of all skill levels and ages. So even if you’ve never sailed or learned how to race, check out our programs and come with us!