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  • Writer's pictureTom Robinson

Fishing and mental well-being: Tackling Minds teams up with the NHS to promote better mental health

Updated: Jan 29, 2022

I thought I would write a post this morning about fishing which is quite a topical point of conversation, considering the current post-Brexit fishing rights row that is currently going on in Jersey!

But my focus on fishing isn’t related to that, it comes from a discussion on Radio 2 that I heard yesterday when I was driving back from the tip.

The programme was hosted by Victoria Derbyshire and its focus was on fishing and mental well-being. The interview was about one man’s journey to better mental health after he joined an angling club when suffering from severe anxiety.

David Lyons explained that he’d been through ‘a million medications and therapies’ beforehand, but fishing was more beneficial than anything else he had ever tried.

The benefits of fishing on mental health have even been recognised by the Greater Manchester Mental Health Trust who have now formed a partnership with a local fishing group so that patients can have the opportunity to learn the basics of angling.

I think this is a fantastic initiative because getting out in nature and meeting new people definitely plays a role in boosting mental well-being. I don’t think I would have been able to benefit from fishing when I was in the throes of severe bipolar disorder, but it would have been an interesting, relaxed and low-pressured pastime to have had the opportunity to engage in during the recovery process.

Anyone who reads this blog knows that I’ve had a psychiatric nightmare with the prescribed drugs, so if people can get better without having to take them, then that is exactly what they should do.

The drugs need to be a last resort, and not handed out wildly to every person with low mood. The psychiatric roundabout and the myriad of side effects and withdrawal symptoms need to be avoided at all costs, and if people can get better through activities like fishing and walking then that’s exactly what they should be doing.

Unfortunately, for me 'social prescribing' would never have been enough, because I was far too ill to be able to do anything to help myself, but I certainly like the idea of it.

I’ve always wondered where the appeal for fishing really lies because if an activity didn’t involve risk, adrenalin and a dopamine hit then I was never previously interested in it. Having thought about it though, I realise that there must be more to gain from fishing than simply catching your supper.

There’s obviously the calming effect that being in nature induces but there’s also the opportunity for contemplation that comes with being near water.

I think there’s something really soothing about being near water, especially running water – the sight and sound of it is so natural, pure and unpolluted. It’s a similar experience to watching a fire; the simplicity of staring into the flames gives rise to a moment of reflection and inner peace.

Now that I don’t feel the need to feed my dopamine addiction through jumping frightening cross-country fences, or skiing off cliff edges, I think I might be interested in a more peaceful pastime. I will definitely be asking my friend Andrew about the benefits of fishing when I next see him, and might even try to accompany him sometime to find out for myself!

While researching to write this post, I found quite a nice article about the benefits of fishing on mental health. I have listed a few of them below:

Fishing provides time to bond with others

As well as giving the opportunity to benefit from the fresh air, fishing allows the time to work on relationships and social engagement with others. Joining an angling group can also be an excellent opportunity to meet new people and learn new skills.

Fishing improves focus

Fishing takes a lot of focus. When you catch a fish and reel it in, there’s no space to think about anything else. Focusing on one thing at a time is incredibly relaxing and gives you the opportunity to engage with the present moment.

Engaging in fishing creates a connection with nature

Recently, a study from the Canal and River Trust revealed that GPs are prescribing canal walks to ease depression, with the proximity to water being a key factor. Nature plays an integral part in fishing, and any angler will tell you that being near the water is a great way to relax.

The act of fishing improves self-esteem

Fishing is a great way to set personal goals and achieve them. Even if you have a day with no catches, realising that you are capable of mastering a skill and relying on yourself to make it a success is a great boost for your self-esteem.

Fishing gives you time out from the real world

Fishing is a great way to detach from the day-to-day. Quietly sitting and stopping the clocks allows you to concentrate on yourself. This form of meditation is great for introspection and your overall mental health.

Fishing helps to up your Vitamin D levels

Spending time fishing is a great way to get outdoors and increase the levels of Vitamin D in your system. In fact, research from the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry shows that the more vitamin D you get, the less likely you are to experience depression.

Fishing counteracts noise pollution

Finding a quiet moment is difficult in our modern world, but fishing is a perfect way to cut through the noise. According to the University of Michigan, the brain can restore its cognitive resources when focusing on ‘soft’ fascinations with lower levels of sensory input that usual.

With all these benefits I am now seriously considering taking it up! So there’s another thing to add to my ever growing list of mental well-being activities! The list now includes:

  • · Walking in nature

  • · Reading

  • · Writing

  • · French

  • · Gardening

  • · Riding out

  • · Socialising

  • · Supporting others

  • · Meditating through music

…..and will include fresh water swimming (which I am still yet to get around to!)

All of this is quite miraculous considering I’ve not been doing anything except ‘dying to stay alive’ in bed for years at a time – the transformation is quite unbelievable and now the priority is obviously to stay in remission and then help everyone else.

I will be having a break from writing over the weekend to recharge ready for Mental Health Week which starts on Monday.

I also have my second Covid vaccination this afternoon which is obviously fantastic news (I was prioritised for severe mental illness), so I want to give myself a chance to rest, just in case I should have any surprise side effects!

If you would like to listen to the BBC Radio programme on fishing and mental health then you can find it here.

I have also added a short video of 'Tacking Minds' to the homepage.

Thanks for reading,

Speak to you soon,


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