Why getting out on the water is good for you

How sailing can boost our mental health
Sailability 11 May 21
Oceans of hope challenge, mental health wellbeing

The last 12 months have taken their toll on our businesses, our families, and our relationships, it’s been tough, there’s no doubt about that, and we have all missed getting out on the water.

It has been a time of reflection and an opportunity to take stock, but for many the isolation, the lack of support, and the loss have meant that physical and mental health have been harder to manage.

Mental health charity, Mind ran a survey to understand the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic on mental health, and unsurprisingly more than half of adults 60% and two-thirds of young people (68%) said their mental health got worse during the lockdown.

So where does sailing come into this? 

Mental health is the largest cause of disability in the UK and affects one in four adults in any given year (NHS). Many people with mental illness don’t consider themselves disabled, yet the effects can be just as life limiting. The good news is that sailing can and does have a tremendous impact on mental health and improved wellbeing. Plenty of people tell us that sailing boosts self-esteem, improves our confidence, and reduces tension & stress.

Learning to sail can , focuses the mind and body in the moment. Learning a new skill allows you to momentarily leave your comfort zone and immerse your thoughts on the experience of being out on the water.

That's not forgetting the benefits of connecting with others, the social support, you receive through being a member of a sailing club and spending time with others. A sailing club for many is, in fact, a sanctuary in our otherwise hectic daily lives.

Regardless of your ability or disability, the act of trying something new is rejuvenating, and a perfect example of this is the Award-Winning Oceans for Hope Sailing Challenge, which provides people from all over the world the opportunity to sail. Regardless of experience the challenge is about increasing confidence, improving wellbeing and giving hope for the future.

Robert Munns organiser of Ocean for Hope said: “By making them realise what’s possible, sailing gives people with MS the opportunity to achieve their own form of greatness. The lights go back on.”

Hilary Rae Ball, a participant in the 2021 Oceans of Hope Challenge said: “I’d never been interested in sailing, but it turned out to be the most incredible experience. I learned so much, not just about sailing but about how far-reaching MS is on our mental and physical strengths. It was a safe space for us to work through our self-doubt and to overcome it.” 

Now we are all told being close to the water is therapeutic, but what is it about the water that is good for our mental health?

Is it the sound of the sea lapping, or the sails blowing or is it something a little more scientific? We will never know for sure, but what we do know is our Sailability network, plus our affiliated clubs and recognised Training Centres are working hard to get everyone to get back on the water in a way that people can build their confidence and skills after so long away.

The main thing is it OK not to be OK. If you have been struggling with your mood, stress, anxiety or even sleep, visit the #EveryMindMatters mind plan to get your personalised mental well-being, action plan. You can 

Talk to your Sailability group if you are already connected, or visit rya.org.uk/sailabilityto find out more about boating and a sailability group near you.

For more information about RYA Training visit RYA Training Courses

To find your nearest club or training centre visit Where’s my nearest.