The Mental Health Benefits of Sail Training
As we set sail into a new year, we can reflect and set ourselves New Year's resolutions. One of the most important is exploring things that enrich our lives and contribute to our mental well-being.
As we strive to build our personal goals, it becomes essential to acknowledge the broader context in which these aspirations unfold. We are in an era defined by unprecedented global challenges, ranging from the continuing aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic to the escalating implications of the climate crisis and geopolitical conflicts such as those in Ukraine and Gaza.
These issues have had a profound impact on the mental health of the younger generation. The COVID-19 pandemic alone presented extreme disruptions to young people during a phase of critical social development. They were locked behind closed doors when they should have been developing relationships with themselves and others, exploring life and discovering their place in the world. Since COVID-19, findings have revealed high levels of clinical depression, anxiety, and loneliness.
Recent studies show young people are experiencing higher levels of loneliness and social isolation, are less likely to have stable employment, and are forming their decision-making and emotional skills without the crucial social fabric of everyday life. These factors continue to contribute to the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on young people. Additionally, young people report that their academic progress has suffered since COVID-19.
- A staggering 80% of young people say their academic progress has suffered due to the pandemic, and half report feeling less motivated to study and learn.
- State school pupils are more than twice as likely to feel that they have fallen behind their classmates than independent school pupils.
- Nearly half (45%) of all pupils believe they have yet to be able to catch up with lost learning.
Being unable to socialise with friends and family has impacted young people. Although social media is readily available, nothing compares to meeting friends and family in real life with people we seek comfort from. It's not surprising that anxiety levels have risen.
Social media has dramatically changed how we communicate. We have access to unlimited information, we can connect with people from all over the world almost immediately, and we can share things that matter to us with others.
Over the past few years, psychologists have begun to look at the effects of social media on mental well-being. A consistent finding of much of this research is that the heavy use of social media is associated with poorer mental health. While social media is a means of connecting with others, it is also used to compare. It has become a barometer of how we measure up to others, and this was even more a particular issue during the lockdowns - we look at other people's pictures and lives and compare them to our own. It is terrible for our mental health.
Being too active on social media and worrying about regularly posting pictures and status updates has been linked to anxiety, poor body image and diminished mental health. Constantly seeking approval from others and searching for external validation means young people don't develop a secure sense of self that isn't dependent on arbitrary conditions of worth.
This preoccupation with how others react to what we post on social media can make young people unsure about their value. They may start worrying about how they are seen, making them more self-critical of their physical appearance and lives.
Sail Training can help!
Sail Training is an experiential educational platform that uses the elements of adventure, teamwork, and learning new skills to offer profound benefits for mental well-being. Its unique blend of camaraderie and physical exertion has a fantastic impact on mental health. It allows young people to be children, gives them space and time to reflect, challenges at times, and is a real catalyst for positive change.
Physical Exercise and Mental Health
Sail training exemplifies how physical activity is used to create positive change. Sailing demands strength, agility, and coordination. Navigating open waters, manipulating sails, and constantly adjusting to the boat's motion necessitates using the entire body; Sail Training is a physical endeavour.
Studies consistently highlight exercise's role in releasing endorphins, neurotransmitters renowned for their mood-enhancing properties. This mitigates stress and is a natural antidepressant, contributing to a more positive emotional state. The physiological benefits include improved sleep patterns, enhanced cognitive function, and a bolstered immune system.
Sail Training vessels and our own Helen Mary R are designed so they need the participation of the whole crew; whether hauling on a halyard together or taking the helm on a windy day, Sail Training provides a great workout in the fresh air that helps you feel good.
Connecting with people and improving social interaction
Sail Training epitomises the essence of teamwork; navigating open waters demands a collective effort where individuals coalesce into a cohesive unit.
By its nature, it has a range of roles, responsibilities, and communication that extends beyond the confines of the vessel. Each member's contribution is integral to the vessel's progress and symbolic of a shared commitment to a common goal. Success is contingent upon collective effort rather than individual prowess.
Interpersonal connections and camaraderie are built from the shared experience of sailing. The close quarters of Helen Mary R necessitate effective communication, cooperation, and mutual reliance. It cultivates a sense of belonging and shared responsibility. Whether in shared experiences, like navigating lumpy seas or basking in the tranquillity of a sunset sail, they become the foundation upon which meaningful connections are built.
Positive social connections are linked to lower stress levels, increased resilience, and enhanced emotional well-being. The collaborative nature of sailing enhances the overall experience. It provides a supportive social framework, or as we call it: 'the boat family'.
The Importance of Nature in Promoting Mental Well-being
The relationship between nature and mental well-being builds resilience and overall psychological well-being. A Sail Training vessel is a great place to appreciate the world around you. Sitting on the deck watching the ocean, feeling the salt spray on your skin, breathing in the fresh air and screaming with delight when a pod of Dolphins come to visit!
Keeping a lookout is one of the most essential roles whose entire purpose is to watch what's happening around us. Another great time to appreciate the world is during those quiet night watches where we might even see the stars and Milky Way in all its glory.
Sailing allows individuals to immerse themselves in the natural world, allowing them to pay more attention to the present moment, improving mental well-being. It gives young people time to process their thoughts and feelings and the world around them.
Some people call this awareness "mindfulness". Mindfulness can help young people enjoy life more and understand themselves better. It can positively change how they feel about life and approach challenges.
Sense of Achievement & Personal Growth
Sail Training is all about learning new skills, how to tie knots, setting sails, and even understanding a new nautical language; from the first time they step aboard, young people get an enormous sense of achievement after mastering each small step.
As individuals progress in mastering these skills, a tangible sense of accomplishment emerges, rooted in acquiring knowledge and learning a dynamic and challenging environment. There is no better feeling in the world than you get after pushing through a challenging sail, with broken sleep, and finally arriving at a new port - the sense of accomplishment contributes significantly to increased self-esteem and self-belief.
Sail training allows personal growth, igniting a transformative journey beyond sailing skills. The challenges posed by the weather and the need for adaptability in constantly changing conditions necessitate the development of resilience, problem-solving abilities, and a heightened sense of self-awareness. They develop a profound belief in their capabilities. This newfound confidence extends beyond the realm of sailing, permeating other facets of life and enhancing an individual's overall sense of self-worth.
New Years Resolutions
As we start a new year, the call to explore avenues that enrich our lives and contribute to mental well-being becomes crucial. Sail Training beckons as a recreational pursuit and a holistic journey towards mental resilience, physical fitness, and meaningful connections.
Consider this an invitation for your child to explore the world of Sail Training - an experience beyond the ordinary. In the face of global challenges and the unique stresses faced by the younger generation, Sail Training is an opportunity to navigate the seas of life with purpose, camaraderie, and the wind at your back (excuse the puns!).
Discover the positive influences that Sail Training can have on your child's mental health with one of our voyages; from day experiences to month-long expeditions, there is a voyage that will support your child in making life-changing discoveries.