Lydia embraces sailing to improve mental health and dares others to give it a go

09 Oct 20

Taking part in outdoor sport and recreation can improve mentalas well as physical wellbeing, whether it involves relaxing on atranquil stretch of water or high-adrenaline racing that helpsyou to switch off from the stresses of everyday life. 

Describing herself as “an emotional sponge”. Lydia believes that nomatter how cold you may get on a Winter sail, nothing warms the soul and putsthe ease as much as sailing. She has since become part of a community and gained a sense of belonging, daring others to ‘try it’ and give sailing a go. Lydia tells us all about her journey…  

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

My name’sLydia, I’m from Belfast and I’m a final year law student at Queen’s UniversityBelfast. I have two mad labradoodles, Tadhg and Rollie Joe, and a family who Ilove dearly. I love all outdoor activities, bar camping due to a mortal fear ofinsects crawling over me while sleeping. I row at Belfast Boat Club and Ihighly enjoy a post-sailing trip to the Guillemot in Bangor (@theguillemotcafe)for a cheeky vegan sausage roll.  

2. How did you get involved in sailing?

I got involvedin sailing through my dad. When he was a boy, his dad handmade him a boatcalled Sea Hawk which he sailed down in Killyleagh. Due to a busy workschedule, he stopped sailing for decades, however, in 2006 we got a cruisingyacht and I’ve been sailing ever since. Last year, I also joined Queen’sSailing Club where we sail Firefly dinghies at Ballyholme Yacht Club.


 3. How has sailing positively impactedyour mental health?

I’ve alwaysbeen an anxious person, which isn’t surprising since I’m very sensitive and thedefinition of an emotional sponge. However, after leaving school my anxietybecame a problem effecting my day-to-day life. I had to make the decision toleave my dream university and dream course to come home and reset. At the time,the pressure of fitting a mould, pretending everything was fine and “sucking itup” was too much. I couldn’t lie to myself like that.  Skip forward ayear to my second year at Queen’s and I’ve joined the Queen’s Sailing Club. Iremember being so nervous to join up by myself but it was the best decision Icould’ve made. Escaping the city and being thrown into a boat with likemindedpeople did, and continues to do, so much for my mental health.  First and mostimportantly, sailing gave me a sense of community and belonging. A group ofpeople all sharing in the freedom that sailing allows is amazing.  Secondly, itchanged the direction of my focus from inward to outward. Both mind and bodyare engaged in sailing which can be a welcome distraction, helping to getout of your head. As part of this, you learn to embrace all kinds ofweather that’s thrown at you, from sunshine to torrential rain (and sometimeseven snow).  However, trustme when I say, nothing warms the soul and puts the mind at ease more than abracing winter’s sail followed by a warm shower and cup of tea. Try it, I dareyou.  Finally,countless studies show that the more time spent in nature, the greater ourmental health is. I’ve seen dolphins and porpoises, gannets and seals, andbreathtaking sunset views over the water. The sea is so therapeutic, and thesound of a boat gliding through the water... now that’s bliss.  

4.  What specific skills have youdeveloped because of sailing?

Sailing hasdefinitely improved my problem solving skills. You have to be on the ball forpotential mishaps, and when they occur you have to be quick to respond.Strangely, sailing has also improved my creativity - trying new things to getbetter results has helped me with my studies and in finding unique ways toanswer legal problems.

5. Why would you recommend sailing toothers to benefit their mental health? Sailing getsyou outside and into the open air, bringing you movement and freedom. And so,if you’re feeling stuck or have felt out of sorts or you would just like tochallenge yourself with something new, I’d highly recommend getting in touchwith your local sailing club and give sailing a go. 

The Sport Northern Ireland Sport Wellbeing Hub is a valuableonline resource. The hubprovides the right help right now, providing instant access to a range ofinformation, guidance and screening that is tailored specifically to help carefor your individual wellbeing needs.RYANorthern Ireland are keen on promoting mental health wellbeing within our sport. 

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