Paddling for Peace of Mind

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It is a well-known fact among paddlers that the sport has many physical benefits. Paddling regularly will lead to improved strength and balance over time. Perhaps less widely appreciated is how paddling affects the mind.

Studies have shown that paddling reduces stress. This effect has been linked to both exercise and the calming influence that many water-based activities have on the brain. Paddlers also experience improved moods, lower rates of depression, and higher confidence than non-paddlers.

Spending time in nature promotes relaxation, and being surrounded by blue – the color of water – may amplify the brain’s response. Blue is known to send the mind into a meditative state, encourage creative thinking, and boost health and happiness. In the past, some doctors even prescribed time near the ocean to heal a variety of illnesses. There is a group of researchers studying this phenomenon, led by Wallace J. Nichols. To learn more, we recommend reading his book, titled Blue Mind.

It is also possible to enter a meditative state while paddling, and meditation is linked to a whole collection of mental and emotional health benefits – relief from anxiety, enhanced self-awareness, increased attention span, a lower risk of memory loss, and the list goes on. The most important thing to know about meditation is that there is no right or wrong way to meditate. While paddling, we suggest tuning in to the rhythm of your paddle strokes and to the sights, smells, and sounds of nature around you. With each exhale, try to push any “clutter” out of your mind. Let go of your to-do list and your worries while you paddle, and focus only on your connection with the world around you.

After completing a mindful paddle, we often find ourselves feeling more energized and ready to face any challenges that are presented to us during the day ahead. Give it a try next time you’re on the water – if you like it, make it a habit and enjoy the lasting benefits. Happy paddling!

Ocean Tribe Paddlers is a club hosted by Sanibel Sea School that helps the SWFL paddling community better explore, enjoy, and understand the ocean. Visit oceantribepaddlers.org or follow us on Facebook to learn more.