Paddleboarding’s Serene River Therapy: Easing Anxiety

‘The water washes away my anxiety’. In this Community blog post Vicky talks about paddleboarding’s effect on the mind and body. It’s a great read, a big thanks to Vicky for taking the time to write it for us.

Looking for my calling

Ironically, I first caught the SUP bug when taking part in a kayak course. We got to try out all sorts of paddling options, and while I enjoyed the kayaks, the paddle boards were the craft that really caught my eye, my imagination and my heart.

Once I’d tried it, there was no turning back! I had been looking for a new hobby, any hobby at all as I wasn’t really doing anything worthwhile in my spare time and found myself continually stuck in a rut of slobbing out in front of the TV every weekend. We should all take downtime, but with a balance. As it was, stagnating like that was impacting negatively on my mental health.

Anxiety and depression had been a part of my life for a few years, and I began to realise that I really needed to get myself out of the house and get some much-needed exercise as well as an injection of nature and fresh air. Although I was taking prescribed medication to help manage the symptoms, I was beginning to realise that tablets alone weren’t going to make me feel happier with my life.

Something happens to me when I’m out on the water surrounding by peace and wildlife. It’s as if I’m rebooting.

Positive mental health

SUP really does have it all when it comes to mental wellbeing.

It gets you fit, strengthens your body and keeps you active, it gets you close to nature – I love spotting the Kingfishers and Herons! It allows you to escape your busy lifestyle beyond the river.

I find that as soon as I launch my board at my local patch, (the beautiful River Great Ouse in Bedford is one of my most regular areas) and take a couple of long deep breaths, I can feel the continual thoughts and worries that are buzzing around my head dissipate and a state of calm wash over me.

But don’t just take my word for it, the mental health charity Mind state on their website that;

Spending time in nature has been found to help with mental health problems including anxiety and depression. For example, research into ecotherapy (a type of formal treatment which involves doing activities outside in nature) has shown it can help with mild to moderate depression. This might be due to combining regular physical activity and social contact with being outside in nature.

If you are interested, then more information about the mental health benefits of being active in nature can be found on the Mind website:

New friends

As is often the case when you find your path, SUP has opened so many other doors for me. I have connected not just with nature and inner peace but also with other people! I met my paddle buddy Lesley on a short SUP course in Bedford and we’ve been paddling together ever since.

Lesley is a new friend whom I never would have met if it wasn’t for SUP, and we’ve learnt so much and pushed so many boundaries together, (Lesley also has two Bluefin boards) As a result of our shared love for paddle boarding, we are going through the ASI Level 1 Instructor course together, with the aim of making a career out of something we truly love. I would never have thought I would be here two years ago.

Living with anxiety and depression does make it tough to even think about meeting new people and taking part in joint group paddles; but the SUP community really are just the loveliest, friendliest and supportive people you will ever meet. Cheesy, I know, but true!

The future

Paddle boarding is my personal therapy, and I will continue to paddle, maybe trying out some new spots that I have yet to discover. My long term plans are to pass the instructor certificate and one day soon to set up my own business with SUP pal Lesley. Living the dream!

I also have a personal aim of taking part in a race this year; I am in no way fast or have any grand ideas of winning, but I know the sense of achievement and pride I will have just to finish.

In essence, paddling is perfect for your mental wellbeing as well as for your physical health. It’s changed my life for the better and I’m so thankful to have picked up a paddle to find my way.

Helpful websites

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