I recently finished a piece for a magazine article on the benefits of the outdoors for stress reduction and peace of mind. More specifically, since the article was geared more towards kayaking, it mostly dealt with kayak fishing and the good that comes from it.
All of us have those moments when stress from family life, financial obligations, to-do lists for both home and work, and the feeling as though you are underappreciated and over-obligated can carry us to the point of great anxiety or even, unfortunately, to the breaking point. It usually culminates where we become the bad guy. You know, we are the ones that are the total jerk as we lash out over something minor because of all the other major burdens.
The article dealt specifically with the Heroes on the Water organization, a non-profit group whose primary purpose is to assist returning soldiers to relax, rehabilitate and reintegrate through kayak fishing and the outdoors. One chapter is based in the foothills of North Carolina.
A study into the program showed that it does actually work. Soldiers dealing with lack of sleep, as in two hours or less during the night due to traumatic stress were shown to have a 60% reduction in re-experiences and sleep increased to five hours or more after engaging in the activity.
There was also a 63% drop in avoidance of family and friends and other social activities after learning and participating in kayak fishing. Avoidance is when the person can become caught up in self thought that can be harmful causing depression. Other benefits were also noted as well.
While the study gave numerical data to the activity, it is something we already knew, whether with kayak angling, shore fishing, hunting, or even hiking as the activity. The outdoors helps us rejuvenate and reinvigorate. It helps bring clarity to an otherwise muddled world.
It is something we all need. We do not have to be a combat warrior returning from a tour of death and destruction to appreciate it. We can be dealing with stress, albeit on a much different level than our returning heroes, by being a secretary, a restaurant manager, a technician or even a stay-at-home mom.
The outdoors does not discriminate. It does not care what our gender, race, or political affiliation is. It heals regardless. All it takes is for us to commit to experience it. Sometimes that is the hardest part though.