The Science of Why Boating Is Good for Your Mental Health

Mental Health

Avid boaters can attest that boating is good for your mental health – but it’s easy to dismiss that as an excuse to go boating. The truth is, there are many mental health benefits directly or peripherally associated with boating and boating on a regular basis can help you stay happy and healthy.

Let’s take a look at some of the most powerful effects, as backed by scientific evidence.

Physical Activity

First, being on a boat typically requires you to expend effort and exercise. Untying the boat, getting the equipment ready, and even steering the boat and anchoring can demand some degree of strength. If you’re sailing on a sailboat, you’ll need even more stamina. On top of that, most people boating are interested in partaking in other related aquatic activities, such as wakeboarding, water skiing, or swimming – all of which are forms of exercise.

No matter what, you’ll be spending time engaging in light to moderate physical activity, which is good for your mental health. This is demonstrated by a litany of scientific studies, which show that regular physical exercise can reduce stress, reduce symptoms of anxiety, and even prevent the onset of depression. Plus, exercising regularly can keep you in better physical shape, which can increase your confidence, allow you to partake in other activities you love, and extend your lifespan.

The Appeal of the Water

One study from the University of Exeter Medical School found that people who live close to the water are 22 percent less likely to report symptoms of depression and anxiety than people who live further inland. It’s not entirely clear why this effect exists, but there are many competing hypotheses that could explain it, including:

  • Feelings of safety and security. Looking at water may give you a primal sense of safety and security. Water is essential for life, so even though we live in a modern society with ample running water, having a body of water nearby can give you a sense of comfort.
  • Extensive horizon viewing. Gazing at the extended horizon over a body of water can also make you feel comforted. Your eyes get to relax in ways they can’t when staring at a screen – and you’ll get a better sense of your surroundings, so the primal part of your brain doesn’t fear uncertainty or the possibility of an ambush.
  • Ambient sounds. For some people, the benefits of being by the water include the ambient sounds created by it. Gentle, rolling waves or the trickle of a running river can be highly comforting.
  • The blue colour. Though not fully understood, studies show that people find the colour blue to be calming and relaxing.

The truth is probably some combination of the above effects. Whatever the case, if you spend more time on a boat gazing at the open water, you’ll be much happier overall.

Mindfulness and Relaxation

Mindfulness is the practice of being mindful in the present moment; mindfulness meditation is the habit of sorting out distractions and focusing only on your present awareness and present self. It’s shown that mindfulness is effective in producing a host of benefits for practitioners, including increasing self-control, improving emotional regulation, and stimulating feelings of wellbeing.

Boating itself isn’t the same as mindfulness meditation. But the relaxing practice of heading onto the water and eliminating distractions from your life temporarily can provide similar benefits. On the water, you’ll be away from your main stressors in life, such as your work and your household responsibilities. You’ll also be isolated enough to be away from annoyances and other distractions. Accordingly, the time you spend on the water can be massively beneficial for your mind.

Sunlight and Vitamin D

Being on a boat usually means you’re exposed to great weather – in other words, you get plenty of sunlight. Regular exposure to sunlight is tied to a wide variety of positive mental health effects.

For example, sunlight is shown to increase the production of serotonin in the brain, a “feel-good” molecule that can improve your mood and increase your sense of personal wellbeing. In winter months, when there’s less sunlight, many people experience a major drop in serotonin – which is primarily responsible for seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

Additionally, it’s shown that a lack of vitamin D is highly correlated with symptoms of depression. People who aren’t getting enough vitamin D are disproportionately likely to feel the effects of depression. But one of the primary ways we get vitamin D is through the absorption of natural sunlight – and being on a boat is perfect for it.

Exposure to sunlight has a ton of other benefits as well, including reducing your risk of cancer (as long as you’re wearing sunscreen), improving bone health, and treating certain types of skin conditions.

Opportunities for Socialization

It’s also worth noting that socialization and bonding are indispensable for preserving your mental health. Having more friends and closer friendships will improve your life satisfaction and reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression more than anything else.

While boating, by itself, doesn’t guarantee you the formation of friendships, it will give you plenty of opportunities to meet new people and form closer bonds with the people you do know. You can take your friends and family members onto the water and share your favourite hobbies with them. You can interact with other boat owners at the dock and strike up friendships. You can even join clubs or attend regular meetups to meet more people and get to know them.

If you’ve always loved the idea of owning a boat, but you’ve never pulled the trigger, now could be the perfect time to make your dream a reality. Alternatively, if you’re not happy with the boat you currently have and you’re interested in something bigger and better, there are a multitude of options available to you. Browse TheYachtMarket’s selection of new and used boats for sale today to find your next perfect vessel!

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