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Blog Post: Fishing & Mental Health

Mental health issues are a concern for many people. Wellness of the mind can be improved by outdoor activities, including fishing. The sport is engaging, helps you relax, and has the ability to sooth a troubled mind. Being in nature alone has positive effects on mental well-being; adding the element of water, which has a proven effect of lessening anxiety, increases the benefits. Practicing an activity that reduces stress results in a peaceful state of mind. It’s no fish tale: there is more to fishing than catching fish!

Imagine the scene: Fair weather, sun sinking in the sky, gentle flow rocks your boat, and you’ve left your problems on shore. You cast and reel, enjoying springtime bass fishing — smallmouth — on a river. The habitat is perfect for your game: cool water along a rocky point with aquatic vegetation. Your spinner bait soars toward a bank, arching high before plunging beneath the surface and you set a rhythm of reeling in and casting. You’re in the zone.

Flick your line. Spinner flies. Plunk. Sink. Reel.

Get ready!

Your footing is sturdy and your bait attracts a fish. A smallmouth bass senses the vibration of the spinnerbait. Thump. Flash. Movement. The smallie can’t resist.

A few feet below the surface it strikes the bait and you feel the thrill of a tug as your line gets heavy. You set the hook, keep the rod tip up, and let the drag and rod work. The fish slows down, then fights as you reel and pump. The tip bends like a willow stick in rainy weather but you hold it up, reeling. Keeping pressure on the fish, you see it surface and flip. Net-ready, you reel your catch toward the edge of the boat and scoop it up, hoisting it into your boat. A trophy smallie!

Your brain is engaged. Nature, water, fishing. You’ve forgotten the pile of bills on your kitchen table. Your mind is far from the unopened emails waiting for you at work. That fight with your partner has diminished as you’re absorbed in your surroundings, engrossed in an activity that makes the world go away, if only for a span of time. Fishing.

Mental Heath

According to Mental Health America (MHA), youth mental health is worsening, poor mental well-being in adults is increasing, and people struggling with anxiety and depression is growing. While one form of treatment isn’t always enough, compiling several forms of treatment can greatly improve wellness of the mind. Simple activities, like fishing, can be enough for some people, or it can be a beneficial addition to more serious interventions (medication, therapy).

The Effect of Nature on Anxiety and Depression

More and more evidence is published that shows the positive effects of nature on mental health problems, like anxiety and depression. While screen time — smartphones, computers, television — can diminish wellness of the mind, Mother Nature nurtures it. Americans spend multiple hours a day looking at a screen. Attention and mood are benefitted by being outdoors, from a simple walk in a park or a forest to being on a lake, floating or fishing.

Waters Effect on Mood Disorders Is Proven

Waves lapping on a shore, the gentle rock of water as you recline in a boat, the smells, the sounds… water has healing powers! Just being near a body of water has a calming effect on the body and mind. Muscles relax, breathing deepens, brains slow down. Scientists keep studying the effect of water on humans and they keep coming up with more evidence that being near or on a body of water has positive effects.

Fishing Benefits Mental Wellbeing

It’s as simple as that. Fishing is a great hobby, but it is also a great therapist! It benefits physical wellbeing and promotes a healthy mental state. The exercise is good for the body; exercise is also good for the mind. In addition, the effect of fishing on the brain has been researched and shown to have a meditative effect.

It’s a simple equation: nature + water + fishing = a healthier mind.

So you want to go fishing? Not everyone has access to a boat, let alone the gear needed to engage in the activity. If you’re looking to keep it simple, water and a fishing pole are all you need (plus a form of bait). If you want to step it up, Brad Miller, expert Smallmouth Bass fisherman offers a range of gear that will not only launch you into the sport, but is proven to be effective and affordable.

Miller, Crosby, Minnesota, grew up fishing. His angling adventures with his brother instilled in him a passion that remains. When he was a youth, he heard about river fishing for smallmouth bass.

“…I went fishing on the Mississippi one time… fly fishing for smallmouth with poppers… a surface fly that you pop a long and kind of make it look like a frog. I caught some really nice bass. Ever since then I’ve been hooked on river smallmouth bass fishing,” said Miller.

On his website, FlyBass.com, Miller offers quality products “without the typical hype found on the internet today.” He helps you chose the best equipment for your needs, focusing on the fun of fishing. He is a fishing advocate who promotes the sport for more than catching fish; he sells the free components that come with it — quiet, simplicity, uncomplicated rest for the mind. Heck, he’ll even take a call (phone number on his website) and talk fish with you!

Fishing doesn’t require much equipment to reap it’s mindful benefits. Mental health will improve by any level of fishing. A pole and a dock, casting from a shoreline, kayaking and a rod baited with a night crawler — the lure is to engage. Relax. Escape. Fish.

The catch of the day is a healthier mind.

Column: Forest Bathing: Shinrin-yoku for Relaxation

If you’ve heard of forest bathing, you might wonder why it is good for you. Forest bathing, the practice of “bathing” your senses in a forest, is a quiet, meditative practice of spending time amid the trees and allowing smells, sights, and sounds to connect you with nature. It is a time of immersing your being in the natural world at a slothful pace. Slow. Calm. Relaxed.

The practice of forest bathing is called “Shinrin-yoku,” a Japanese term that literally means ‘forest bathing.” It became popular in Japan in the 1950s. Researchers have found the practice induces stress relief. Who doesn’t need that? Nature itself creates a calmer state of being. Forest bathing increases the effect since practicing the method engages senses on a deeper level than a simple walk in the woods. The practice can be done alone, or with a certified guide, who will help you get the best relaxing results. Forest bathing is growing popular around the globe.

I decided to give it a try. 

I’m no stranger to walking in the woods and engaging in woodland exploration. When I heard about forest bathing, I decided to follow the suggested steps to Shinrin-yoku. My woodland walks typically include his senses, and were frequently long, but there was one rule to forest bathing I never followed: turn off the technology. I’ve always had my phone on for notes and pictures. The thought of leaving it off gave me angst. Obviously, I needed to try it! The recommended time, based on my research, was at least 20 minutes with a goal of two hours. 

The steps:

— turn off technology
— move through the forest slowly
— breathe deeply
— stop occasionally to take in sights, sounds, smells
— take time to sit quietly and avoid allowing your mind to contemplate your problems or to-do list and focus instead on your surroundings
— keep your eyes open, take in the sights, and pay attention to small details

I decided to follow the rules and forest bathe for 70 minutes. Of course, as soon as I made the decision, I experienced a moment of panic. How would I tell time? Then, I remembered: silence my phone, turn off email and text alerts, and still set a timer to buzz. Whew! Problem solved. Into the woods… 

Once in the woods, I focused on my surroundings, walking slowly. I noticed rays of light streaming through the trees. The sun. The smells of earth were strong after the prior night’s rain. Remembering the research I did about forest bathing, I focused on small details around him. Tiny flowers on the forest floor. A soft rustle from leaves high in the trees. Spider webs. It was amazing how many spider webs there were in the trees. Small and large, many very intricate in design, others just a few strands of silky fiber.

Coming upon a fallen tree, I sat and closed his eyes. Sounds came in waves. Again, I heard rustling leaves. Then, songbirds. Three distinct calls. I opened his eyes to see one of the birds, small and yellow, perching on a nearby branch. I watched the bird as it flew to another branch. Resting his gaze, I realized there were more of the yellow birds. A flock. The longer I sat in still silence, the more birds I began to see. I was part of the forest rather than a threat to the critters that lived there.

Contemplating how much time had passed never occurred to me. I was immersed in the woods. Taking a bath. I felt calm. Getting up to walk, I moved slowly along a deer trail. It looked well-traveled. I followed it to an opening in the woods. A hallow. A holy place. Wholly serene.

The sound of his phone buzzing was like an intruder. An uninvited guest. I turned it off and made my way out of the woods. Mentally, I added to my to-do list: return on a day I had no obligations to meet. A day I could leave his phone behind and engage in forest bathing for an undetermined amount of time.

Forest bathing isn’t simply a practice, it is an opportunity. An embrace of the natural world and a chance to become more at ease. It is believed to help immune function, improve blood flow, ease the mind, and improve mental function. Additionally, it connects those who engage with nature and grounds them to the earth, improving sleep and reducing pain. I tried forest bathing out of curiosity. I’ve continued the practice regularly for its effects.

Naturalist and author John Muir wrote, “In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks.” 

I wholeheartedly agree!

Feature: GroShed Gardening is Hydroponic Miracle

What do you call an indoor garden that basically runs itself, produces fresh vegetables during wintertime and runs on LED light technology and water? Jon Friesner calls it GroShed. He invented the product over a year ago. It’s a unique garden shed that not only offers people the ability to grow their own food, but do it during cold months hydroponically.

The process of hydroponic gardening is a method of growing that is water-based. No soil is needed; the water is rich in nutrients and supports plant root systems with various mediums (peat moss, perlite, etc.).

While hydroponic gardening comes with its own set of challenges, such as odor, humidity or water leakage, GroShed was designed to solve those problems. What makes it even more appealing is it’s a stand-alone system, rather than taking up home space. It is literally a garden in a shed.

GroSheds are prefabricated and delivered to a desired location. Each requires only a standard plug-in for a water source and electricity. Very little maintenance is needed to run GroShed and it can operate in temperatures as low as negative 30 degrees Fahrenheit.

Cold winter months are one of the reasons Friesner came up with GroShed.

“Though I love Minnesota winters for recreational activities, I often struggle with mental health frustrations due to the long, dark winter. After the Christmas holidays, I start dreaming of gardening. In the early spring of 2018, I started to put my dreams into reality and came up with a means of gardening all year long. You could say that my GroShed was an oasis from the harsh winter weather,” he said.

The idea was also born out of Friesner’s love for producing his own food. While gardening as a kid was more of a task than a pleasure, he now realizes those years working in a garden taught him some valuable lessons.

“The long hours taught me the value of hard work and the importance of sewing and reaping. We were made to do difficult things, nothing worthwhile comes easily. Whenever I am working with plants, I am filled with analogies for life: if you want a rich life, you have to put good nutrients into your soil…” said Friesner.

Working alongside him as the core team for GroShed are his wife, Kate Friesner, acting as communications officer; Josh Rooker, project manager, Jake Stern, technical engineer, Ben Miller, creative director and Katie Miller, assistant creative director.

The Friesner children — there are five — are also involved and share family favorites in the veggie department, like kale, cucumbers, cilantro and tomatoes. Having GroShed has increased the family’s vegetable consumption. According to Friesner, cherry tomatoes are the best product to come out of GroShed.

The family also has a “very spoiled” organic garden planted in raised beds. Collectively, they enjoy gardening year-round and have learned the value of being more independent when it comes to nourishing food.

GroShed has expanded greatly: from an idea to a reality, from a garden to a school project. It is being brought into the local school district to help students learn about growing food and to provide the lunchroom with fresh produce.

GroShed was a contender for the Minnesota Cup, a state-wide competition for entrepreneurs. The Minnesota Cup is the worlds largest competition of its kind, focusing on startups, like GroShed. Friesner hopes to see GroShed become a great source of employment for the area. He, like many local business pioneers, is taking risks and following his dreams.

“When I started designing this system, I had a lot of fears of failure and irrelevancy. In just a year and a half, I have been blown away with how this innovation has the potential to impact so many areas of life… Our whole area, Cuyuna Range, is rising because people were willing to take risks and try new things in the face of challenges and adversities… I would encourage [people] to have courage and pursue creative solutions in the areas they are passionate about,” said Friesner, adding, “Grow local, eat local, love local.”

More information can be obtained about GroShed on the company website at www.groshed.org or “like” them on facebook, where information is available along with photographs of vibrant GroShed produce.

Tribute: Inheriting a Love of Nature

Typically, I select a nature topic to write about. The process goes something like this: get outside in boots or on snowshoes, kayak or fishing boat; enjoy the great world without walls; find something (or it finds me) to observe; study/research said topic (if merited); write about it. Sometimes the process includes getting wet or cold, hot or (gulp) injured. Of course, there is always a lot of enjoyment and relaxation during my outdoor adventures. It is what I love to do whether on water, in the woods, a meadow, or hiking in the mountains – I love the natural world and all the flora and fauna I am privileged to see.

Someone once asked me how I get motivated to do what I do outside. “How do you push yourself to go for a hike or haul your kayak to a lake?” I told her the truth: I don’t have to motivate myself to be outside enjoying all things living. I simply love to do it! The truth is, the need for motivation comes in when there is laundry to do, dishes to wash, or paperwork to sort through. That is where I have to “push” myself. I’m grateful I love being outside. (Walls are overrated!)

Like I said at the start, I typically write about a topic (or two). But today, I’m going to write about inheriting my love of nature – all of it – in honor of my dad. He is no longer treading upon this wonderful world. His hiking boots are retired, fishing tackle stored, and his duck call sits on a shelf with old photographs. But he comes with me every time I’m outside, especially in the woods (his favorite place). He was the one who first instilled in me a love of the outdoors. Thanks, Dad!

My dad’s last name was Holte. An original meaning of the name was “grove” or “wood.” It’s no surprise to me because that man loved the woods. No matter where we lived during my childhood, Northern Minnesota or the Twin Cities, he gravitated to the woods and brought his children with him. It was a well-known fact that if you walked behind my dad in the woods, you had to fend for yourself. He wasn’t one to hold back branches, so if you were too close, you’d inevitably get snapped with a twig. Ouch! I think it was one of the many ways he taught his children independence.

Walking through a dense forest is no easy task, but I’ve come to love it and learned to navigate through the underbrush. He used to say: “If there’s not a road in the woods, make your own.” He made a lot of roads. When I was a little girl he built a cabin way up north on a lake, deep in the woods. He cleared an area and built a cabin, and some of my favorite childhood memories are there, rooted in the forest.

My dad taught me how to berry pick amid the evergreens. Fresh and wild blueberries. We had to get them before the bears did and were instructed to pick without eating. He said if you eat one, your bucket stays empty. I berry picked with him into his old age. I still berry pick, and I still refrain from eating any until my bucket is full.

I grew up on things he took out of the woods and water. He was an avid hunter and fisherman and had an ethic about nature I greatly admire. He cared for it – loved it – and enjoyed what it had to offer. He believed if he shot (or caught) an animal he should eat it. However, I do remember him straying from that belief at least once. One summer, a woodchuck was ravaging his garden and he went outside and shot it, right there in the middle of our suburban neighborhood. He was very serious about gardening, and my dad wasn’t one to worry about consequences, he simply acted. (Ahem, I’m not condoning his behavior, but he was who he was!)

Funny, I didn’t inherit his fearless manner. I’m more cautious and concerned about what others might think or making a mistake. Maybe that’s because of my dad, too, such a gregarious and influential person, I never wanted to disappoint him.

When I was a girl, my father took our family on many trips that displayed some of nature’s greatest features: parks, lakes, rivers, and (of course) forests. He and my mom would pack all eight of us kids into one car and drive to a campsite where we would pitch one tent. Let’s just say things were quite cozy.

Camping with my own two children has left me with the impression my parents were either nice or crazy. I’m thinking they were a bit of both. While I love to camp, it is a lot of work, and I can’t imagine the chaos of eight children in the woods for a long weekend (and frequently in a wet tent with damp clothing).

It’s hard to conceive someone so present and influential in my life no longer being on this earth. I like to imagine him out wandering in the woods, foraging for morel mushrooms or berries, or simply enjoying the wonder of all things living.

I sure do miss him! But every time I’m out amid the trees he is with me. He is the one walking up ahead, pointing out what is edible, what is not, and showing how to make my own road.

Poem: Confiding in trees

Into the woods, between the trees, on dewy morn I voiced my plea
Of secret hope — A covert snare
In desperate words and whispered prayer
They listened well, the oak and pine; all standing still, those friends of mine

Recording words on birch bark roll, bound and kept like ancient scrolls
Protected deep, as nature scribes; and not exposing my confide
In peace I walked, a sacred rite, and tarried there to edge of night
When owls hoot and whitetail browse, amid the trees as nature bowed

‘Til all expression, in the wood, began to still in quiet mood
The sky grew dim above the trees, and sighing soft, reminding me
Was time to turn and leave the woods, back to my urban neighborhood
But having told the my secret thoughts, a freeing peace of which I sought
Welled up inside and overflowed, spilling down where saplings grow