March is all about women. Whether it is International Women’s Day or Women’s History Month, we are encouraged to discuss, celebrate, and focus on the state of women. While focusing on important issues like Equity and Women Who Tell Our Stories are important, it is prudent to consider that women need outlets for improved mental health and well-being.

In particular, women who choose to put themselves in harm’s way to protect us both need and deserve the time to decompress. At Heroes on the Water our community of military veterans, first responders and their families include this valiant group of women, and we both believe and have proof that kayak fishing and the outdoors provides relief for stress while improving well-being.

Connectedness Starts Outdoors

According to an article in the APA, connectedness to nature benefits mood and mental health. Recently more in-depth studies have been conducted around green and blue spaces. The results show that blue spaces improve mental health and wellbeing. Women, however, often do not participate as readily in certain blue space activities, such as fishing, surfing, or kayaking.

It’s time to consider a change in mindset about these types of activities. According to a survey from Women in Adventure, 90 percent responded that outdoors had a positive impact on their mental well-being. Here’s where it gets interesting:

The survey focused on specific activities, such as skiing, surfing, mountaineering, and kayaking.

Kayakers were the most satisfied with life.

Canoeists and skiers followed kayakers on life satisfaction. Skiers were happiest by a large margin, followed by kayakers, and this group felt the most worthwhile.

Surprised? Fortunately, we are not.

HOW’s Study Provides More Proof

Recently, Heroes on the Water utilized participants in our Therapeutic Program to conduct our own study. This study was peer-reviewed, utilizing a tested tool developed by developed by the program’s Research Coordinator, Shelby Jackson, PhD.

There were three focus areas – stress management, self-efficacy, and relationships. Self-efficacy is a person’s belief in their abilities, particularly to complete a task or meet challenges ahead. The results from this study segment align with survey results outlined above – kayak fishing improves confidence; helps you recognize strengths and improves mindfulness.

Study will be published in full later in 2023.

Take It Outside

Ever heard that from a parent, or said it yourself? It is time to take your own advice. Kayaking and fishing have lower barriers from a cost and access point that many other sports, like surfing or skiing. And we know it is a great way to alleviate stress and increase confidence. You can get outdoors and into blue spaces that are quieter, away from the hustle and bustle of larger boats and people.

There are many women who actively participate in Heroes on the Water events, which are provided at no-cost to our veterans, first responders and their families. Women like Dawn Martin, who shared her personal story with us and says this about kayak fishing:

“When I was on the kayak, the pain disappeared,” said Dawn. “The feeling of being out there with other veterans and with people like me who had disabilities brought forth a healing power.”

“When I tried to get out of the kayak, I had to crawl. But I did not care. There is complete freedom on the kayak.”

Maybe kayaking and fishing aren’t your thing, and that is okay. Making a point to get outdoors, even walking in your neighborhood park, helps improve your mood. So the next time you feel anxious or frustrated, take it outside!

At Heroes on the Water, our focus is to ensure that our heroes a space and place to commune and restore. If you want to make the impact of outdoor recreation go further, support our heroes by joining The Honor Circle. Become part of a community that believes in honoring our heroes for their service, using mother nature to heal and to provide continuous improvement to the lives of so many who give to protect our borders and maintain the peace.
Learn how to maximize your impact through The Honor Circle. And make some time for yourself and your loved ones to get outdoors, relax and reconnect.

** Presented at:
Jackson, S. & Winston, Joe. (2023, February). Operation Early Impact. [Conference presentation]. Texas Recreation and Parks Society-TR Tuesday, In-Person Conference.
Jackson, S.  & Winston, Joe. (2022, November). Operation Early Impact. [Conference presentation]. Therapeutic Recreation Symposium of the Southwest, In-Person Conference.
Additional references available upon request.   

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