The past year and a half has brought multiple changes to our lives. For many of us, this period has been a time for reflection, and some have decided to focus on self-care and pay better attention to their health and well-being.
Indeed, during the past 18 months, you may have tried different strategies to stay in optimal physical and mental health. Fortunately, there’s always something new to try. And one leisure activity that's gained a whole host of new fans during the COVID crisis is fishing.
In fact, according to the Guardian, the number of annual rod licence applications in England and Wales surged by more than 120,000 in 2020 – that's up a huge 15 per cent on the previous year, with a large increase in the number of women and families heading to the waterside.
You may have never thought about trying it, but what about giving fishing a go? As August is National Fishing Month, let's discuss this popular leisure activity and discuss the health benefits of fishing – you may be surprised by some of them!
The health benefits of fishing are many and are both physical and mental. Indeed, there are plenty of reasons why spending some time by a lake or the sea trying to fish can nourish us. They include:
A UK study looked at the impact of recreational fishing in teenagers who took part in a week-long fishing camp. The findings suggest that fishing put to the test important skills, like patience and self-discipline.
Outdoor therapies are used to increased resilience, since these activities support identity, self esteem and create a feeling of worthiness. For example, fishing gives us the ability to provide our own food. This can lead to a confidence boost because we realise we can satisfy some of our basic needs without depending on others.
Among the psychological health benefits of fishing is confidence and the feeling of mastery; the ability to make progress and develop new skills, which is a critical factor in the development of self-esteem.
Like other outdoor leisure activities, fishing can help us reconnect with nature and carve a pathway to growth, restore balance, and learn about our inner self.
According to nature-deficit theory, the changes in work arrangements and lifestyle mean we’re spending a significant amount of time indoors. Similarly, the biophilia hypothesis claims humans have a natural affinity for outdoor environments, and switching the balance around can address physical and emotional imbalances.
Mood regulation and/or improvement is one of the key health benefits of fishing. People who enjoy fishing regularly often say they do it because it helps them forget worries, relieve tension and relax.
Fishing can be a great family bonding experience
This activity allows us to put distance between ourselves, the real world, and the stresses of everyday life. This momentary break leaves you feeling energised to go back to the daily routine, and is a mood booster to help you face life with renewed energy.
And being an outdoor activity, you may also get to benefit from the mood-lifting effect of sunshine and vitamin D. Its health benefits include better resistance to disease, a reduced risk of developing bone related conditions and heart disease, mood stabilization and improvement of depressive symptoms.
After months of isolation, many of us feel the urge to be around others and satisfy the basic human need of connectedness. Indeed, the feeling of belonging is an important psychological prerequisite according to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. This is one of the main health benefits of fishing, since the need for social connectedness has been with us for our entire evolutionary history – and has contributed to our survival as a species.
“Mood improvement is one of the key health benefits of fishing. People who enjoy fishing do it because it helps them forget worries, relieve tension and relax.”
In fact, an active social life is linked to a strong immune system, better cognitive performance and fewer symptoms of depression. A day out fishing can provide an opportunity to spend quality time with friends or family, and can also be a socialisation strategy for introverts or those who don’t like crowds.
Although many fishers and anglers enjoy the activity as part of small groups, conversely, fishing can also meet the need for solitude. Sometimes we have a strong need to be alone and process our feelings, and that’s one of the potential health benefits of fishing: it offers the right environment for that kind on inward reflection.
Fishing requires focus, and for better or for worse, humans can’t really focus intently on more than one thing at a time. So, while you concentrate on fishing, you allow your brain to put other worries in the back seat.
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There can also be a healing element to fishing, as shown by a programme developed in the US to help disabled veterans and those suffering from PTSD. Veterans were taken fishing for the first time, and they reported that the activity helped them manage their emotions and find peace and passion for life.
Sure, you can’t compare a high-intensity gym workout to a morning of fishing. But that doesn’t mean that fishing is a wholly sedentary activity. On the contrary, it can be a great low-intensity total body workout. Think about this:
So, fishing is perfect if you want to enjoy the physical benefits of staying active but don’t want an exhausting workout.
The mental health benefits of fishing are many shutterstock/Andrey Yurlov
Depending on who you ask, fishing is an art or a science. Whatever the case, it’s never an exact art or an exact science. You’ll have great days and not-so-great fishing days, which will likely prompt you to get creative and think of possible solutions.
“You can’t compare a high-intensity gym workout to a morning of fishing, but the activity can be a great low-intensity total body workout.”
Maybe you’ll need to change bait, or experiment with different weather conditions or test new spots. Your equipment may break, so you’ll need to improvise and think outside of the box to see if you can fix it on the spot. It’s all a great way of developing creative problem-solving skills. The health benefits of fishing are more than just physical.
The great thing about fishing is that you can let your mind wander or you can focus hard on it. If you choose to focus, fishing can help improve concentration skills, which have been so vastly disrupted by the digital world. If you’ve been considering a digital detox, you can start with short detox sessions when you go fishing.
Fishing can be a great alternative if you struggle with more formal or strict forms of meditation. Although it’s considered a sport, it’s also a hobby and there’s no need to stress about its competitive element. In fact, you don’t even have to fish anything. It can be about being there, enjoying the moment, taking in the fresh air, being in a natural environment and watching the water flow.
Indeed, fishing can be an ideal setting to start a mindfulness practice, if you haven’t already done so. And why not consider listening to one of these mindfulness podcasts while you’re out by the water for that added sense of calm? •
Main image: shutterstoch/AT Production
A social sciences graduate with a keen interest in languages, communication, and personal development strategies. Dee loves exercising, being out in nature, and discovering warm and sunny places where she can escape the winter.
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