Sep 12, 2023 | Boating News

Is Sailing Good for Mental Health? (+ How Does it Help)

First Class Sailing has been offering sailing lessons and courses for over 20 years. In that time, we’ve helped thousands of people get out onto the water and achieve things they never thought they could on a physical level. But sailing isn’t just about the physical aspects.

A common theme that comes up with our customers is how sailing has been good for their mental health. And we completely agree with this statement.

Sailing is fantastic for mental health as it can help to reduce stress and anxiety, improves your self-esteem and confidence, and can give you a sense of accomplishment you might not otherwise find in other areas of your life.

But is there any science to prove that sailing is good for mental health?Well, yes, it appears that there is, and we will refer to that as we explain how sailing can be a good therapy below. If you want to get started, here’s a link to our beginner courses.

How does sailing help mental health?

When you are sailing you need to focus on the task at hand. Doing so can help to reduce stress and anxiety as it can provide a welcome distraction from daily worries and concerns. The rhythmic motion of the boat and the sound of the water can also have a calming effect on the mind and body.

Whilst learning to sail can be hard, it will also be incredibly rewarding. As you develop your sailing skills, you will soon experience a sense of accomplishment and increased self-esteem. Sailing also offers a sense of purpose and direction, which it’s said can be particularly beneficial for those who are struggling with mental health issues.

Sailing is also a social activity, and it can provide opportunities for individuals to connect with others and build relationships. This is especially true when you take part in a First Classing Sailing course with other beginners. It will give you a sense of community and belonging, which can be good for mental wellbeing.

sailing mental health benefits

The science behind sailing and mental health

In 2014 a study was published which examined how sailing worked as a rehabilitation strategy for patients with mental disorders. It found an improvement in their mental health. Here’s an extract from the findings.

“Out of the 40 patients enrolled in the study, those exposed to rehabilitation with sailing during a series of guided and supervised sea expeditions, where the aim to explore the marine environment while sailing was emphasized, showed a statistically significant improvement of their clinical status. The improvement was maintained at follow-up for some months only: after 12 months, the patients returned to their baseline values on the measures of psychopathology and showed a worsening trend of their quality of life. Sailing can represent a substitute of important experiences that the patients with severe mental disorders miss because of their illness.”

If sailing can help people on the higher-end scale of mental health, it’s fair to assume it can also be good for those with less serious issues.

Another study by the University of Exeter Medical School found that people who live less than a mile away from water were 22% less likely to report depression and anxiety.

Whilst it’s not possible for everyone to move that close to the sea, the next best thing would be to spend as much time as possible close to it – and sailing is one way of doing that.

Key factors in why the sea good for your mental health

People often say, including ourselves, that when you sail on the water, it has an incredible relaxing and calming effect. This is due to the sound of the waves, the fresh sea air you can inhale, and the gentle rocking motion of the boat.

All this combined will aid mental health as it is known to reduce stress and promote relaxation. There’s also the sense of adventure and exploration that comes with sailing.


Another important factor that contributes to the mental health benefits of sailing is the sense of community and social connection that it can provide. Sailing is often a team sport, with crew members working together to navigate the boat and reach their destination. This can help to foster a sense of camaraderie and teamwork, which can be especially important for individuals who may be struggling with feelings of isolation or loneliness.

Finally, sailing can also provide a sense of accomplishment and achievement, which can be important for improving self-esteem and confidence. Learning to sail requires patience, dedication, and skill, and successfully navigating a boat can be a rewarding and empowering experience.

Overall, while the specific mechanisms behind the mental health benefits of sailing are not yet fully understood, there is growing evidence to suggest that sailing can be a valuable tool for promoting mental wellbeing.

By providing relaxation, social connection, and a sense of achievement, sailing may be an effective way to improve mental health and overall quality of life.

To recap, here’s how sailing is good for mental health:

  • Stress relief: Sailing can be a peaceful and calming activity that provides a break from daily stressors.
  • Mindfulness: The focus required for sailing can help promote mindfulness and living in the present moment.
  • Self-esteem: Learning to sail and mastering new skills can boost self-esteem and confidence.
  • Social interaction: Sailing can be a social activity that provides opportunities to connect with others and build relationships.

Whilst we are not mental health workers, or qualified to say for certain, we firmly believe sailing has positive mental health benefits for many people. This is based on our own experiences and the feedback we receive from the thousands of people we’ve taught to sail over the last couple of decades.

If you would like to find out more about how you can learn to sail, get in touch with us today.

The post Is Sailing Good for Mental Health? (+ How Does it Help) appeared first on Sailing Blog.

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