Taking part in outdoor sport and recreation can improve mental
as well as physical wellbeing, whether it involves relaxing on a
tranquil stretch of water or high-adrenaline racing that helps
you to switch off from the stresses of everyday life.
Describing herself as “an emotional sponge”. Lydia believes that no
matter how cold you may get on a Winter sail, nothing warms the soul and puts
the 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?
Lydia, I’m from Belfast and I’m a final year law student at Queen’s University
Belfast. I have two mad labradoodles, Tadhg and Rollie Joe, and a family who I
love dearly. I love all outdoor activities, bar camping due to a mortal fear of
insects crawling over me while sleeping. I row at Belfast Boat Club and I
highly 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 involved
in sailing through my dad. When he was a boy, his dad handmade him a boat
called Sea Hawk which he sailed down in Killyleagh. Due to a busy work
schedule, he stopped sailing for decades, however, in 2006 we got a cruising
yacht and I’ve been sailing ever since. Last year, I also joined Queen’s
Sailing Club where we sail Firefly dinghies at Ballyholme Yacht Club.
3. How has sailing positively impacted
your mental health?
been an anxious person, which isn’t surprising since I’m very sensitive and the
definition of an emotional sponge. However, after leaving school my anxiety
became a problem effecting my day-to-day life. I had to make the decision to
leave 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 it
up” was too much. I couldn’t lie to myself like that. Skip forward a
year to my second year at Queen’s and I’ve joined the Queen’s Sailing Club. I
remember being so nervous to join up by myself but it was the best decision I
could’ve made. Escaping the city and being thrown into a boat with likeminded
people did, and continues to do, so much for my mental health. First and most
importantly, sailing gave me a sense of community and belonging. A group of
people all sharing in the freedom that sailing allows is amazing. Secondly, it
changed the direction of my focus from inward to outward. Both mind and body
are engaged in sailing which can be a welcome distraction, helping to get
out of your head. As part of this, you learn to embrace all kinds of
weather that’s thrown at you, from sunshine to torrential rain (and sometimes
even snow). However, trust
me when I say, nothing warms the soul and puts the mind at ease more than a
bracing winter’s sail followed by a warm shower and cup of tea. Try it, I dare
countless studies show that the more time spent in nature, the greater our
mental health is. I’ve seen dolphins and porpoises, gannets and seals, and
breathtaking sunset views over the water. The sea is so therapeutic, and the
sound of a boat gliding through the water... now that’s bliss.
4. What specific skills have you
developed because of sailing?
definitely improved my problem solving skills. You have to be on the ball for
potential mishaps, and when they occur you have to be quick to respond.
Strangely, sailing has also improved my creativity - trying new things to get
better results has helped me with my studies and in finding unique ways to
answer legal problems.
5. Why would you recommend sailing to
others to benefit their mental health? Sailing gets
you 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 to
challenge yourself with something new, I’d highly recommend getting in touch
with your local sailing club and give sailing a go.
The Sport Northern Ireland Sport Wellbeing Hub is a valuable
online resource. The hub
provides the right help right now, providing instant access to a range of
information, guidance and screening that is tailored specifically to help care
for your individual wellbeing needs.
Northern Ireland are keen on promoting mental health wellbeing within our sport.
more information - http://www.sportni.net/wellbeing/