Why Going Fishing Is Good for Your Mental Health

Fifteen years ago, I would have been laughed off the internet if I wrote an article about mental illness and fishing. But now, thanks to studies and research, I'm pretty sure no one will kick me off the internet. Depression robs so many people of the joys in their lives, and it's tough to find anything that will work as a coping mechanism when you're feeling down.

According to recent studies, it's spiking by two percent every year in the states. Adolescents are at high risk for depression because their brain development has not yet been completed. That makes them more vulnerable to stressors and changes in mood, which can lead to depression, and introducing a supercomputer in their pocket, can't help. 

As a result, Antidepressant medication use is through the roof. According to the Center for Disease Control, antidepressant use has increased 400 percent, since 1988. So many people are taking Prozac, in the United Kingdom, that scientists are concerned that active metabolites in human urine are running off into the water and may affect wildlife behavior. 

Most people with clinical depression don't seek psychotherapy because they don't know about it, don't believe in it, or can't afford it. Obviously, there are many reasons why people don't engage in psychotherapy when they should. Some may lack knowledge about psychotherapy or believe it can't help them because of a lack of results in the past. Regardless, the vast pool of people with low-grade depression symptoms is pretty much walking around with a head wound.

All of this new is in itself, depressing. What can be done about mental illness and depression? I know this started like a downer of an article and probably had you asking “What’s depression and mental illness have to do with hunting or fishing?” Well, there’s been some very interesting research in the recent past that leads some think fishing might be a partial solution to depression. That's right, fishing. Well, not just fishing. Hunting, hiking, mountain biking, rock climbing, basically anything outside in nature. Let’s dive in and get to some of the good new. 

According to the psychologist, Niels Eék, spending time in nature may be the key to good mental health:

"Several researchers have looked into the mental health benefits connected to spending time out in nature. One study specifically, which was recently published in BioScience Journal, found that daily exposure to nature can, among other things, help reduce feelings of stress and even improve your self-esteem for up to seven hours. Reconnecting with nature can also help you become more mindful and present in the moment," Eék said in a statement. Some experts believe the best way to take care of your mind is to go on a fishing trip.

The average adult spends about 11 hours a day engaged in sedentary behavior, which could lead to or be a symptom of depression and mental illness. Finding something that helps you lift your spirits is the key. Fishing is a great way to break up the monotony of sitting on the couch all day. It can also help with depression, anxiety, and PTSD, according to recent research.

Observe, cast, reel in, repeat.

Fishing is an ancient yet popular pastime. Being in nature allows people to get some fresh air and beautiful views of nature. Still, it also provides a great escape from the daily hustle and bustle of their busy lives. Maybe you're already fishing every weekend, and perhaps you're just now getting into it. One key way your mind will benefit from a day on the water is a renewed focus on the things that matter. 

It's like a silent meditation, just you and the water, quieting your mind. And one of the most significant psychological benefits of fishing is that it allows anglers to focus on something simple. Observe, cast, reel in, repeat. You can let go of all your cares and worries and, in turn, appreciate the beauty and joy that a day on the water affords.

Next time you're feeling down and hopeless, just get out in nature, let it carry your heaviest load, and maybe you'll eat some speckled trout for dinner. I mean, I know you were probably planning on going fishing this weekend anyway but at least now you have another reason to get out there. I also think there is something delightful about relinquishing control and being subject to the weather, water, and the fish's appetite.

I planned to end this blog post with that last sentence, but it didn't feel right. You see, I had my own stent with depression. All the colors of the world were turned off for nearly 10 years of my life. I know the pain of depression. I know what it's like to try my hardest to have fun, yet it feels like a black hole sucks any enjoyment out of life. Fishing, hunting, hiking, being outside are all helpful and, based on research, have more benefits than we previously thought. But sometimes, nothing you do helps.

When that happens, your depression will tell you to go off in solitude but fight that. Go out in nature. Fish, hunt, hike, and do all these with friends. For me, it was the community I surrounded myself with that helped my depression. Did it cure it? Nope. I still have days when everything is muffled, but the good days are starting to stack up higher than the bad. 

If you are in a spot where things are rough and dark, call someone to go fishing with you or go to an outdoor range with a friend. Reaching out for support is literally the last thing anyone with depression wants to do. But it plays an essential role in overcoming depression. On your own, it can be difficult to maintain a healthy perspective and sustain the effort required to beat depression. If you’ve taken steps and made lifestyle changes but still find your depression getting worse, seek professional help. Needing help is part of the human experience. When you first started fly fishing you didn’t know how to do it but you had someone help you. Find someone to help you if you need it. 

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