If you’re feeling highly stressed and burned out, fishing can be a great way to recover your mental health and self confidence. In fact, if you search for ways to reduce or recover from stress you’ll probably see fishing mentioned quite often. But how does something like fishing help reduce stress? Well, it turns out that fishing is accidentally one of the most powerful stress reducing activities out there.
Fishing as Exercise
Exercise has long been known as one of the best ways to relieve stress. It give you focus on an activity rather than your stress, releasing chemicals in your brain that make you feel good, and give you confidence. If you go on a fishing trip that involves you hiking, rowing, or reeling in larger species of saltwater fish, you get a good amount of exercise through the day. If you really want to make fishing more of a physical activity, go on a canoeing trip with fishing supplies that incorporates portaging. Going on a long hike while also having to carry your canoe and supplies can be a great workout.
Fishing as Accomplishment
Another common method to reduce your stress and anxiety is by setting and meeting goals. If you are highly stressed, it is likely because you are overwhelmed by things and tasks that you think you can’t overcome. Accomplishing something helps build your confidence so you can also accomplish more significant tasks.
Fishing is a great way to start planning and accomplishing something small — you have to plan getting the right supplies and equipment, pick a time and a place as well as your transportation, and it is relatively easy to get a sense of accomplishment by catching even just a couple of fish. The whole time, you’re also getting all the other benefits mentioned above. It all adds up.
Fishing as Mindfulness
This is more for the type of fishing where you find a nice secluded spot on a lake, cast out your line and spend hours in the peace and quiet of nature. One of the best known reducers of stress and anxiety among registered therapists is Mindfulness, which teaches people to focus your awareness and thoughts on the moment. Guided mindfulness meditations usually use accompanying sound effects, often soft and calming things like waves.
When you go fishing, you are putting yourself in the perfect scenario for mindfulness —you can focus on the physical sensations of the crisp air, the sounds of water gently lapping against your boat, and focus your attention on your line in the water. The whole time you can think over whatever has been stressing you out while being in a relaxing and safe spot, far away from the source of stress. Even if you don’t know what mindfulness is, you are almost accidentally doing it when you go fishing like this.
Fly Fishing as PTSD Treatment
There is no better example of how fishing can reduce stress by mentioning how it is used to reduce the most extreme levels of stress: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). For the last decade or so, fishing has been seen as an effective activity to help treat extreme levels of stress that manifest in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). In fact, some studies have shown that fly fishing helped reduce PTSD symptoms and improve quality of sleep among military veterans after participating in fly fishing retreats.
Fishing activities have since been adopted by nonprofits such as Project Healing Waters to help treat military veterans with PTSD. The theory is that the repetitive tasks associated with fly fishing in a quiet and safe environment helps focus the brain on something relaxing and productive. It breaks the cycle of stressful thoughts and stimuli.