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Did you know you can literally paddle the stress away?
It’s no secret that exercise and meditation are great for your mental health. But meditating at home in the morning and hitting the gym after work might not be the best path toward a happier and healthier you. Perhaps this is the perfect time to merge the practice of mindfulness with exercise in a natural environment.
The secret is finding an easy way to immerse yourself in nature with a repetitive, low-impact motion to get you into a “flow state” quickly and easily. With a stand up paddle boarding (SUP), all it takes is 20-30 minutes to get a full dose of the “nature pill” your body and mind need to improve your mental health and overall well-being.
Meditation does not require you to sit cross-legged with your eyes closed like Yogis. The practice is really about mindfulness and being present. When you set out, pay attention to the exercise and sensations you experience during your paddling session. Appreciate the feeling of buoyancy under your feet as you glide across the water and focus on the physical sensations — the sound of your paddle moving in and out of the water, the smells in the air, the feeling in your muscles working.
Paddle Boarding is the perfect exercise to get into a flow state that will allow your body and mind to unwind. The founder of Harvard’s Mind/Body Medical Institute, Dr. Herbert Beson, coined the term “relaxation response” to describe how your body releases chemicals that make your muscles and organs slow down and increase blood flow to your brain — an effective treatment for a wide range of stress-related disorders. Paddle Boarding is also an excellent platform for achieving your daily dose of zen.
When you hug a close friend or feel a sense of calm after a deep stretch, you’re really activating a complex system of nerves tied to the ebb and flow of hormones, such as cortisol. Researchers believe the best way to activate this system is through activities like yoga or deep-breathing. The next time you’re paddling, make sure to pay close attention to your breathing.
Immersing yourself in nature will have a positive impact on your mental health. A recent concluded that you can reduce the stress hormone cortisol by as much as 28% with 20 to 30 minutes immersed in nature each day. Happy paddling!