GUEST POST – Red Paddle Co Ambassador, Kylianne Farrell, Founder of Move For Mental Health. The M4MH initiative works to empower people to move, get outside, play, experience, adventure and explore to help boost mental wellbeing and reduce the symptoms of mental illness.
“Paddling may hold an antidote to balance out the damaging impacts of stress from daily life.”
It is clear that a Red Paddle Co board was designed to create experiences for anyone who takes it for a ride. What may not be visible is the deeper opportunities that it holds to transform emotion with motion supported by the powerful forces of nature.
It is no secret that we feel better after spending time moving in nature, but why?
Human beings today are busy and screen addicted, bombarded with man-made stimulus and stress from every angle. When we step away from the constant hustling, with the pressure to be and do more, grab the board and paddle to hit the water, we give ourselves the permission and space to restore and recover. The majority of Australians feel that stress not only impacts their physical health but also their mental well-being too (1). SUP may hold an anecdote to balance out the damaging impacts of stress from daily life. Natural settings have been shown to lower heart rate, reduce blood pressure, lower anxiety and increase feelings of well-being (2). With each stroke, optimal conditions for the attentional recovery within the brain are created clearing space for reflection by being immersed in a natural environment (2).
“Being active lowers the tension of muscles in the body, interrupting anxiety feedback loops to the brain. Calmer body, means calmer mind. ”
When jumping on a SUP for the first time, the body calls on all its reinforcements to restore balance. Exercise has the ability to balance the neurotransmitters and neurochemical’s in the brain (think; feel good, serotonin and dopamine) Those that if affected can lower mental well-being. Keeping the brain in balance can change your life (3).
Depression and anxiety disorders are the two most common mental health problems for Australians. Exercise like SUP can work to reduce the symptoms and act as protective strategies for mental well-being.
Being active lowers the tension of muscles in the body, interrupting anxiety feedback loops to the brain! Calmer body, means calmer mind. Throw in the restorative impacts of nature and you have a combination that could starve off an anxious state (3).
It is possible to SUP your way into a better mood. When you exercise you feel good and this also translates to feeling good about yourself. Depression can keep the brain stuck in negative thought patterns about oneself, SUPing can be challenging, it is a chance to prove adversities can be faced and overcome on the water and in daily life. It’s about taking back some control, getting the sense that you can be okay, shifting perspective, mood and attitude (3)
“Paddle boarding is the perfect way to integrate play back in to life. Literally a floating platform to experience the wonder of nature, engaging fully with the world from a new perspective..”
Water is a necessity if wanting to SUP and a necessity for quality of life. Studies have shown that the highest increase in happiness in nature is when people were near water, in particular coastal regions (5). It has been long assumed that the environment influences well-being and there is now extensive research on epigenetics that prove this is true. Active engagement with the outdoors such as doing vigorous activity or exercise, boosts the happiness factor higher! (5)
Life without play is a grind, existing not living, doing things out of the necessity for survival (4). Children’s play is a big part of life and how we learn about the world around us. In the transition to adulthood, play is lost amongst the perceived need to be productive and successful. SUP is the perfect way to integrate play back into life. Literally a floating platform to experience the wonder of nature, engaging fully with the world from a new perspective.
A recipe for play looks a little like the below;
When you take to the water on a Red Paddle Co you are wondering what will happen. When playing in nature there is always uncertainty, while we do our best to mitigate the risk, this anticipation leads to curiosity and wonder.
It is rare that while paddling there is not something that occurs that is unexpected - a school of fish, some boat wake, a new discovery, a new idea.
There are many reasons why paddle boarding coupled with mother nature makes us feel good, and it is this feeling that keeps us coming back for more.
With every stroke of the paddle, the body is pushed and so is the brain. With complex movement patterns such as the movements involved in SUP, areas of the brain are also being exercised. Areas of the brain that are required for cognitive function are being fired up, strengthening a network of cells calling into action the part of the brain that is the boss, the pre-frontal cortex.
This area is in charge of organising activity, physical and mental, receiving input then directing it through the brains network of connections. The boss handles working memory, initiating action, judging, planning and predicting. All the things that allow us to 'adult', are called the executive functions (3).
Sense of balance - ultimately all of the above ends up here, play is the essence of life and is what makes life lively (4).
In the world we find ourselves now, with varying levels of isolation, moving through nature can be utilised to find deeper connection when restrictions placed upon us make it limited to be with others. When next in nature, allow yourself to be supported and connected to something much bigger than yourself. After all, nature continues against the odds stacked against it to show up for us as human beings allowing us to survive. Draw on mother nature’s strength, purpose, meaning, hopefulness, optimism and harmony when you need it most by simply picking up your Red Paddle Co board, hitting the water with an open mind and drinking it all in. (2)
A big thanks to Kylieanne for sharing her insights on mental health and the incredible benefits of nature and movement in the great outdoors. It’s good to know that a big dose of fresh air can kickstart those all-important chemicals and give your mind the kindness it needs to feel calm and balanced when you need it.
If you’d like to learn a little more about Move for Mental Health, then pop on over to @redpaddleau and watch Kylianne in conversation with the Red team on IGTV, as part of Mental Health Awareness Month. Charlie and Kylianne discuss the power of paddle boarding on your mental health and learn how Kylianne’s recent 100KM Ultra SUP and Hike challenge helped raise awareness for such an important cause.
(1) Impact of Stress in Australia | nib. (2019). Retrieved 19 August 2020, from https://www.nib.com.au/the-checkup/healthy-living/impact-of-stress-in-australia
(2) Buzzell, L., & Chalquist, C. (2010). Ecotherapy (pp. 108, 157, 158). Berkeley, CA: Counterpoint.
(3) Ratey, J., & Hagerman, E. (2008). Spark (pp. 73, 77, 83, 181, 230). London: Quercus.
(4) Vaughan, C., & Brown, S. (2014). Play (pp. 18, 19, 26). New York: Avery.
(5) Nichols, W. (2015). Blue mind (p. 83). London: Back Bay Books Little Brn.