Presented by Dr. Dennis K. Crawford

An early teacher of mine used to say “When in doubt about what to do look at what everybody else is doing and do the opposite.”
I believe this advice is even more appropriate now than forty years ago.  While people have been told to stay in their homes for health reasons, I contend a better strategy for most would be the opposite.  Staying inside all the time is unhealthy, both mentally and physically and there exists a lot of data to prove that.  Obviously there are exceptions, but for most people, get outside, particularly when there is sunshine and do it as often as you can.  If you need an excuse to get out, go fishing.  It’s proven to have valuable health benefits that I will explain shortly.

The sun is a necessary component for good health.  The advice to stay out of the sun is so illogical it defies reason.  Obviously sun exposure can be overdone as can everything else, but a 2014 study showed that low sun exposure was correlated with a much higher mortality rate.  A 2017 study showed a significant decrease in female mortality with sunlight.  Sunshine was an accepted therapy in the 1800’s when it was a treatment for tuberculosis. In 1933 it was stated that one hundred and sixty different diseases could be helped by sun light.  It was also shown to decrease certain cancer risks and is helpful with depression, fatigue, stress and anxiety.  Since exercise has also been shown to be an excellent therapy for mental and physical health (as good as medicine for depression), what could be better than walking or taking a hike outdoors?

The sun is also anti-viral.  Most viral illnesses occur in the colder months you’ll notice.  Sunshine activates the production of Vitamin D in the body.  Optimal Vitamin D levels are very important to having a strong immune system.  Most people do not have good levels of Vitamin D and most people do not get enough sunshine.  If this is the case for you, I suggest supplementing every day with Vitamin D.  If one should happen to become ill, supplementing with higher dosages for a couple of days can help to get the infection under control.  Vitamin D deficiency plays a role in several disease processes beyond viral.  Osteomalacia, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and the ability to heal from any type of infection require healthy Vitamin D levels.

While getting outside is good, getting out in nature is better.  Nature heals. It is particularly therapeutic to one’s mental and emotional health.  Much of people’s unease and anxiety is brought about by a disconnect from nature.  When anxieties are high the body struggles to heal due to an imbalance in the autonomic nervous system.  The great naturalist, John Muir, wrote years ago about how people would change for the better after two or three days in Yosemite.  They would get calmer and happier.  Have you noticed there doesn’t seem to be an abundance of happiness or calmness around lately?  Nature does help the physical body as well.  It can lower blood pressure in some people and it can boost the immune system by increasing Natural Killer cells (stress can decrease NK cells).  “Forest Bathing” is getting in the woods and finding a spot that feels good and stay there for awhile and soak in the sights, sounds, and feelings of the forest.

Fly fishing is a good healthy outdoor activity for a few reasons of which catching fish is the least imporftant.  It is currently being used as therapy for veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome with great results.  I’m sure that just being out in nature accounts for much of the results as fly fishing waters are usually in very beautiful country. I’m also sure that other outdoor activities are probably as beneficial, but fly fishing has a track record of great success. There are however, other explanations for its benefits.  Fly fishing takes focus and repetition.  This helps block the negative thoughts that would otherwise run rampant in the person’s mind.  It has been compared to meditation in that it promotes a relaxation response, which is the opposite of a stress response.  A stress response is sensing danger and prepare to “fight or flee.”  A relaxation response is calm and healing.  Fly fishing is a wonderful therapy for stress which is increased with staying inside. In addition, the soothing sound of moving water amplifies the relaxation response.

What if you are not able to get out in nature? 
Here are some things you can do.

Walk barefoot in the grass, preferably early morning.
Do some home gardening. Get your hands in the dirt.
Listen to CDs of nature sounds. Ocean waves, a soft rain, birds chirping, etc.
Watch DVDs of nature scenes. There are many options available. Choose what is most peaceful to you.
Decorate your home or office environment with paintings, photographs, or art that are soothing to the senses. Anything that doesn’t produce a feeling that is peaceful and calming should be discarded.