Archery Brings Mental Health into Sharp Focus

One of archery’s most useful attributes that help it sell comes into mental health issues. When you are holding the bow and arrow at full draw you are mechanically integrated into the shot. That shot requires a strong grip on your mental capacity, not just your strength. Archery is 90% mental energy and 10% physical strength. As long as you hold onto your mental state in a stable condition then you can execute the shot perfectly and with great accuracy.

I am on the autistic spectrum, a developmental disorder that affects the way my brain has developed. But as I grew up I realised that sport had the power to help me with my mental issues and boost my self esteem. I may have taken up archery late in life but I have gained the benefits of archery in helping me manage my mental health and autism. Whenever I pick up the bow and aim at the target I am able to put myself in a stress free place where I need to keep my mind focused on the target.

In some countries archery is a form of zen, which is a Japanese word for meditation. Archery can be a very useful form of meditation because it connects the body in a state of coordinated harmony. Getting your form right for archery takes practice and skill and that mindfulness associated with the form teaches you how to connect with your inner strength. I have a friend with a mental health condition and I have shown her the benefits that archery can bring to help with her anxiety. I did it by showing her a method I used to get over target panic.

First I lined up with the target with my bow in hand and the arrow still in the quiver. I looked at the target and talked aloud my thoughts energising myself with positive affirmations. After I made one sentence, I picked up my arrow, nocked, draw and released. Then I repeated the routine and as I did my body started to radiate with this positively charged energy as I went along with every shot. I felt a lot better after that and I regained confidence in my execution. It was so good for her that I may have encouraged her to join a club.

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The places where the arrows hit the target can also reflect a mental picture of how your mind is behaving. The range of the arrows and the accuracy on the target can tell you how strong your concentration is. When we look at that target and see the position of the arrows it can reveal how scattered our brains be. I can see a pattern emerging in my shooting whereby the off centre arrows can tell me if I am shooting alright. In this case I am probably losing focus or struggling to pull myself together. So we pick ourselves up and try again and in doing so we master persistence and vision. So that’s how archery can be useful for your mental wellbeing.

Thanks to archery my self esteem and mental energy is growing well and it is giving me a very positive outlook on life. The sight of the target in my mental imagery enables me to focus on the important goals in life that I am determined to achieve. Since I don’t believe in luck I rely on persistence to get where I need to be and archery has given me that courage. There are several other health benefits that you can gain from archery as well as make new friends through the social aspect of the sport.

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Some professional archers have told how their mental health has been improved by their activity. In some cases it’s also brought them back from the brink of self destruction. One compound archer from Australia, Louise Redman took up archery to cope with post natal depression. She got through her illness so well that she ended up becoming one of Australia’s top female archers. Another archer who became a successful Paralympian for Great Britain called John Stubbs lost the use of his legs in a motorcycle accident. He was so mentally and physically wrecked that he felt like a burden on his family. Thanks to archery he recovered slowly and was able to eliminate suicidal thoughts, stress and realised he had a lot more to offer.

Archery takes your focus away from the negatives in your life and brings you to the most important thing in life – You!

As for selling archery that can be done as a mental health service provided by hospital, clinicians and healthcare specialists. Here are some suggestions to get in touch with people through this channel.

  • Specially adapted archery sessions for special needs. People with mental health conditions have different ways of learning that can require unconventional tutoring methods. So they will need a different approach to being taught how to handle a bow and arrow, hand to eye coordination, mental conditioning, exercises for shooting, etc. Everyone learns a skill in their own way according to their strengths and abilities. As an autistic I needed to learn how to handle my stance for a longer period of supervision, I had to learn how to kill the negative voice in my head, recite positive affirmations, put myself in the moment and learn to forget everything but embrace the nature of the target.
  • Advertising at Mental Health clinics. Archery clubs don’t often advertise their clubs in these places. We need to reach out to the people of autism community. In fact there are opportunities that we need to give to the disabled to show acceptance of all classes of citizens. In my years as an autism activist and a patient of psychiatrists I have been dismayed by the lack of services and connections to local sports societies. It doesn’t take a genius to work out how to connect with people of mental health. Just show them what health benefits archery can bring and they’ll reach out to you.
  • Promote archery as a lifestyle choice. Diets and exercise workouts are advertised everywhere. Whether it’s a gym membership or a healthy eating slimming class you’ve got plenty of advertisements in the papers, websites and social media feeds. Yet for some reason archery is not often advertised to the mainstream alongside the intense workout regimes for fitness, the meditation classes, the health spas, the home improvement ideas and so forth. Well archery is a sociable sport as well and it has some great health benefits for the mind and soul. We need to capitalise on that message and get it across to the public. That way they can see archery without that child like novelty of dressing up which makes it more of a gimmick than a serious sport.

Now it’s up to you. Go ahead and start bringing these ideas to the fore and show the world what makes archery cool.

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