Fishing — therapy for a stressed-out world

Today’s news is often dreary and sad. Murders, drugs busts; conflicts abroad; you name it it’s all there on the six o’clock news. It’s enough to send us all scurrying behind barred windows and locked doors. The kicker, though, is a growing level of anxiety the general public feels about our own well-being.
Psychiatrists, psychologists, and therapists are seeing their business boom during the times in which we live. While these folks can often help, I have another idea I learned by watching an old man one day. Just for the sake of doing it, go fishing.


Once when my family and I were on vacation on a lake in Arkansas, we rented a cabin by a lake. Rising early one morning while the family slept, I poured a cup of coffee and stepped out of the cabin to sit on the dock and enjoy the peace of the morning.
Spying an old white-haired gentleman fishing from the dock, I moved closer. As I approached, he snapped the rod upward and momentarily, a bluegill was flouncing on the dock. He admired the fish a few seconds, unhooked it and gently slid it back into the water.
He picked up a slice of bread, pinched off piece, molded it around his hook and continued his fishing. What the old fellow was engaged in was a healthy form of therapy. He was fishing for the sheer enjoyment of the sport.
Observing this, I was reminded of a scripture passage in John 21:3 that begins, ”Simon Peter saith unto them, I go a-fishing”. Wycliff’s Bible Commentary offers regarding Peter’s announcement, “The sight of his boat and the waters of his beloved Galilee, and perhaps the necessity of keeping body and soul together, dictated his sudden announcement.”
The statement – “keeping body and soul together” smacks of therapy to me. Granted, we need more activities that serve to keep our inner selves intact during these times.
While there are more ways than fishing to soothe jangled nerves and provide salve for anxiety, fishing has been scientifically proven to be one of the most effective ways of relieving stress.
Studies have shown that one of the most effective deterrents to stress and stress-related illnesses is fishing. In an article I once read, the writer stated that it is necessary to find a safety valve enabling us from time to time to lay aside the pressures of our hemmed-in lives.
“My answer is”, wrote the author, “go fishing.”
There is a scientific reason why fishing relieves stress, he continued. He wrote of his study of the psychology of daydreams and fantasies and the ways in which one’s imagination can be put to practical use. He noted how often people who are learning to relax mentally picture scenes of nature and peaceful lakeside or oceanside settings. The calming effects of being near water were evident again and again in his clinical and experimental studies.
Scientists have fitted subjects with electro-physiological instruments to measure changes in muscle tension on the forehead. They have learned that when subjects imagine situations involving pressure or fear, the frontalis muscles tighten. As soon as they shift to imagining scenes on a quiet lake as the warm sun emerges from the clouds, the needle on the dial drops sharply as tension is reduced.
I never finished that cup of coffee. It grew cold on the dock as I hurried back to the cabin, fetched my fishing rod and slice of bread and pulled up a chair next to the old guy.
For the next hour, I got me some real good therapy.

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