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Sailing & The Sea is Therapeutic for Our Mental Health

14th October 2020
Lydia Millar afloat and enjoying her university sailing Lydia Millar afloat and enjoying her university sailing

Lydia Millar, a final year student at Queen's University Belfast, joined the university's sailing club to help improve her mental health.

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. She also rows at Belfast Boat Club on the River Lagan.

Lydia says "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 at Killyleagh on Strangford Lough. 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 and we sail Firefly dinghies at Ballyholme Yacht Club".

She admits that she has always been an anxious person and after leaving school her anxiety became a problem affecting 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".

In her second year at Queen's Lydia joined the Queen's Sailing Club. She remembers being nervous joining but knows it was the best decision.

She continues "Escaping the city and being thrown into a boat with likeminded people did, and continues to do, 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 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 you. The sea is so therapeutic, and the sound of a boat gliding through the water... now that's bliss".

Lydia is convinced that sailing has definitely improved her problem-solving skills as you have to be on the ball for potential mishaps, and when they occur you have to be quick to respond.

The sport has also she says, improved her creativity - trying new things to get better results has helped with her studies and in finding unique ways to answer legal problems.

Sailing gets you into the open air

She concludes " 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. It was formed in response to the COVID 19 challenge and provides instant access to helpful information, guidance and resources that can be tailored specifically to help care for our wellbeing needs.

More here

Betty Armstrong

About The Author

Betty Armstrong

Email The Author

Betty Armstrong is Afloat and Yachting Life's Northern Ireland Correspondent. Betty grew up racing dinghies but now sails a more sedate Dehler 36 around County Down.

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