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Drowning in middle life stress? Start fly fishing

by Skip Clement

[dropcap]A[/dropcap]mericans have a difficult relationship with leisure. In our combustible achievement-oriented culture earned time off is many times not even taken. “Always on” has side effects that can paralyze creativity – workaholics never use the off-ramp.

For too many, a hobby is a thing of the past – remote to those that need one most 

Several articles in the NYTimes, WSJ, and other publications have covered our nation’s psychological predilection to measure ourselves by our workstation, toys owned, social status and political umbilical cord. Sad measures all.

The man who did enjoy a hobby and gave that joy to others: freely. A Lefty Kreh photo.

We hate not being productive, and that leaves us tethered to the culture of work

“A 2009 study showed that more time spent on leisure activities was correlated with lower blood pressure, lower levels of depression and stress, and overall better psychological and physical functioning. Hobbies can also jump-start your creativity, or allow your mind to wander and look at problems from a new angle.”Jaya Saxena, NYTimes

Restore your creativity

“In thinking about the relationship between work and leisure, I would argue that rather than thinking about how leisure can promote greater productivity at work, a more important consideration is about how work inhibits our leisure time. By viewing work as something we do to support our leisure time, rather than our hobbies as something to lower our stress so we can get back to work, we can start enjoying our lives. (I know, wild idea).”Thomas Fletcher, Leeds Beckett University (England)

Fly-Fishing and the Brain, Department of Neurobiology, Harvard University 

A 2008 study by the Benson-Henry Institute, published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, found that more than half of the study participants who practiced the relaxation response experienced a drop in blood pressure values after eight weeks, and 50 percent of those who practiced the technique were able to have their dosages of blood pressure medication lowered. With its meditative-like repetitive motion, Benson says fly-fishing is a ‘beautiful way’ of evoking the relaxation response . . .

. . . In other ways, fly-fishing has been compared to meditation, in that fly-fishers perform a simple, repeated task, often for hours on end.  The motion of fly-fishing is part and parcel of the activity itself and may contribute to its calming effect,” says Benson. “Besides, it’s achieving something—you might catch a fish!” Herbert Benson, M.D. ’61


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