PADDLEBOARDING FOR MENTAL HEALTH
Global mental health is a hot topic right now, and the up-and-coming sport of stand up paddleboarding is proving to be something of a remedy. As our world has become more fast-paced and screen-based, it’s little wonder that there is a rebellion of people looking for an escape. Join the paddleboarding revolution!
Read on for the hard facts and indisputable science linking paddleboarding with improved mental health.
When you step onto your board, your body is getting exercise from top to bottom. Firstly, your legs are actively tensed the whole time, to support your weight and keep you balanced. Secondly, your arms and shoulders are constantly bearing the weight and pressure of the paddle as you propel through the water. Thirdly, your core muscles are engaged as you go. Though it seems a gentle hobby, you will be surprised to find how thorough a workout it can be!
We are all aware that exercise is good for us. Not only do we imagine the great muscle tone we’ll develop, but the level of fitness we can achieve as well. Maybe we’ll consider the benefits of getting the heart pumping. How often, though, do we really think about the link between exercise and mental health? Physical activity of any sort stimulates the production of dopamine and serotonin. For those of you vaguely aware of these mental health buzz words, they are chemicals associated with mood regulation and happiness. It’s because of this that physical activity can, in some cases, be used as a treatment for mild depression and anxiety.
When you get down to the waters edge, you will have felt the crumble of river bank or the soft grit of the sand underfoot as you inflate your board. Maybe there are trees swaying overhead, maybe the beach is bookended by cliffs. The breeze whips your wetsuit, maybe salty air mists your face, and you step out to sea. As you glide over the water, you find that you’re not just observing anymore, you’re immersed.
We know, innately, that time in nature makes us feel better, but ecopsychology is the emerging field researching the science that proves it. The idea is, we, as humans, are deeply connected to our environment and the earth itself. Ecotherapy is the practise of immersing ourselves in nature as a form of therapy. How often have you walked through the woods or swam in the sea and felt more centred as a result? Though the science is relatively new, the general consensus amongst experts is consistent- time in nature makes us feel better.
While you’re on your board, you are forced to slow down and consider the present. Despite the fact that your immediate decisions are not challenging ones, they still have to be made. Shall I paddle towards that tempting looking inlet? Or shall I allow myself to go with the wind? Without a degree of concentration, you will find yourself losing balance. You will be feeling the wind, smelling the sea and watching your path.
Being in touch with your senses, slowing down and being aware of the now is the basis of mindfulness. For some reason, we humans find that a difficult concept. Almost as a protective reflex, we tend to overthink the future, dwell on the past, and altogether ruin our present. The science tells us that strengthening and developing the habit of living in the present helps us to be less reactive to stressors, and to recover better from stress when we experience it. Also, it has been known to improve your immune system, soothe insomnia and even positively change the structure and function of your brain.
Once you have taken up paddleboarding, it’s unlikely you’ll be alone for long. Once family and friends get to hear of the benefits, you might find they’ll follow in your wake (excuse the pun). With any new hobby, you may find yourself surprised by the connections that present themselves. Maybe you’ll become firm friends with a fellow paddleboarder, as you share a favourite beach. Perhaps the local fishermen will start to know your car, and give you a wave as you approach. The local cafe might start to remember your post-boarding drink of choice. You might be surprised to find a feeling of buoyancy with all these little encounters.
As humans, we crave connection. It is argued that our relationships, and how we take care of them, is one of the biggest factors affecting our personal happiness. Sociability increases our self worth and sense of belonging, and in turn reduces stress and anxiety. Also, when we cultivate relationships, we feel altogether stronger, more supported, and less alone.
(Why not find a community of stand up paddleboarders locally? Have a look at our Facebook page here.)
Mental health concerns can feel overwhelming, and everyone’s experience is different. Still, we encourage you to take to the board. Maybe you will find yourself surprised and soothed by the remedy of stand up paddleboarding.
If we have piqued your interest and you’d like to embrace the hobby, take a look at our inflatable paddleboards here.
Photo credit: Thanks to -girlinthereddress- for the lovely shot from her Instagram!