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How Archery Can Make You Mentally Stronger

How Archery Can Make You Mentally Stronger

When you hear mention of the sport of archery, you probably think of someone simply using a bow and arrow to shoot at a target. You may even wonder how this could be fun, let alone good for you. Well, let me shake up your perspective a bit to illuminate how this sport can actually be good for your overall health and mental strength.

Using a bow and arrow dates back to 50,000 BC, but back then it was more of a functional apparatus used for hunting and survival. The longstanding history of what we know today as archery can be seen in Egyptian civilization around 2800 BC, when the bow and arrow was more often used as a defense mechanism to ward off enemies or to protect or conquer territories and lives. In the 16th and 17th centuries, archery became a well-practiced and enjoyable sport in England. Competition among archers rose due to the physical skills and mental focus it required to become very good at hitting the bullseye.

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I can remember first being introduced to archery in high school gym class. While I had no idea of what it took to perform the skills of a professional level archer, I really enjoyed the practice of focusing on a specific target and then using my entire body to position the bow, pull back the arrow, and let it fly. It was challenging and fun. And, I actually became pretty good at it (for a novice)!

It turns out that this skillful sport has many physical and mental benefits. Let me share just a few to ramp up your next “out of your comfort zone” experience. Here a few benefits to be gained from practicing archery:

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1. You will increase your strength.

Archery requires solid positioning (core strength) as well as upper body strength. It involves steady strength and control of your shoulders, chest, arms, and hands.

2. You will gain greater balance and control.

Even with great muscular strength, your brain must work hard to keep your entire body balanced for this sport. Your cerebellum (located at the back of your brain) sends neurotransmitters to the muscles required to hold you steady. Releasing the bowstring in a consistent manner requires smooth control.

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3. You will improve your coordination.

During the entire setup and release of the arrow, your eyes, core, upper body, and hands must be totally in sync with each other.

4. You will develop greater focus and endurance.

While your physical body is positioning itself in the best stance for an optimal target hit, your mind needs to tune out distractions and learn how to optimize its focus. The frontal lobe of your brain does this work. It’s neural network helps you to concentrate and give attention to the entire “aim, pull back, let go” process.

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Just imagine, long ago all of these skills were performed on horseback while relying on the guidance and steadiness of the horse, or in a chariot — a very shaky, moving device. Here is where core strength and leg strength really came into play!

So, whether you choose to just go for a one-time archery experience or decide that this sport could be a part of your regular health/exercise regime, it is worth exploring this beautifully skillful practice. Aside from the many physical benefits, it will help you to develop specific attention and a very focused nature. It will help you to learn how to tune out your cell phone, social media, and the mindless chatter. It can guide you to allow your great brain to work synchronistically, accessing your neural network of balance, control, focus, attention, coordination, and strength. Heck, those are plenty of great benefits from simply shooting a bow and arrow !

Featured photo credit: Jakub T. Jankiewicz via flickr.com

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Last Updated on August 6, 2020

6 Reasons Why You Should Think Before You Speak

6 Reasons Why You Should Think Before You Speak

We’ve all done it. That moment when a series of words slithers from your mouth and the instant regret manifests through blushing and profuse apologies. If you could just think before you speak! It doesn’t have to be like this, and with a bit of practice, it’s actually quite easy to prevent.

“Think twice before you speak, because your words and influence will plant the seed of either success or failure in the mind of another.” – Napolean Hill

Are we speaking the same language?

My mum recently left me a note thanking me for looking after her dog. She’d signed it with “LOL.” In my world, this means “laugh out loud,” and in her world it means “lots of love.” My kids tell me things are “sick” when they’re good, and ”manck” when they’re bad (when I say “bad,” I don’t mean good!). It’s amazing that we manage to communicate at all.

When speaking, we tend to color our language with words and phrases that have become personal to us, things we’ve picked up from our friends, families and even memes from the internet. These colloquialisms become normal, and we expect the listener (or reader) to understand “what we mean.” If you really want the listener to understand your meaning, try to use words and phrases that they might use.

Am I being lazy?

When you’ve been in a relationship for a while, a strange metamorphosis takes place. People tend to become lazier in the way that they communicate with each other, with less thought for the feelings of their partner. There’s no malice intended; we just reach a “comfort zone” and know that our partners “know what we mean.”

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Here’s an exchange from Psychology Today to demonstrate what I mean:

Early in the relationship:

“Honey, I don’t want you to take this wrong, but I’m noticing that your hair is getting a little thin on top. I know guys are sensitive about losing their hair, but I don’t want someone else to embarrass you without your expecting it.”

When the relationship is established:

“Did you know that you’re losing a lot of hair on the back of your head? You’re combing it funny and it doesn’t help. Wear a baseball cap or something if you feel weird about it. Lots of guys get thin on top. It’s no big deal.”

It’s pretty clear which of these statements is more empathetic and more likely to be received well. Recognizing when we do this can be tricky, but with a little practice it becomes easy.

Have I actually got anything to say?

When I was a kid, my gran used to say to me that if I didn’t have anything good to say, I shouldn’t say anything at all. My gran couldn’t stand gossip, so this makes total sense, but you can take this statement a little further and modify it: “If you don’t have anything to say, then don’t say anything at all.”

A lot of the time, people speak to fill “uncomfortable silences,” or because they believe that saying something, anything, is better than staying quiet. It can even be a cause of anxiety for some people.

When somebody else is speaking, listen. Don’t wait to speak. Listen. Actually hear what that person is saying, think about it, and respond if necessary.

Am I painting an accurate picture?

One of the most common forms of miscommunication is the lack of a “referential index,” a type of generalization that fails to refer to specific nouns. As an example, look at these two simple phrases: “Can you pass me that?” and “Pass me that thing over there!”. How often have you said something similar?

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How is the listener supposed to know what you mean? The person that you’re talking to will start to fill in the gaps with something that may very well be completely different to what you mean. You’re thinking “pass me the salt,” but you get passed the pepper. This can be infuriating for the listener, and more importantly, can create a lack of understanding and ultimately produce conflict.

Before you speak, try to label people, places and objects in a way that it is easy for any listeners to understand.

What words am I using?

It’s well known that our use of nouns and verbs (or lack of them) gives an insight into where we grew up, our education, our thoughts and our feelings.

Less well known is that the use of pronouns offers a critical insight into how we emotionally code our sentences. James Pennebaker’s research in the 1990’s concluded that function words are important keys to someone’s psychological state and reveal much more than content words do.

Starting a sentence with “I think…” demonstrates self-focus rather than empathy with the speaker, whereas asking the speaker to elaborate or quantify what they’re saying clearly shows that you’re listening and have respect even if you disagree.

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Is the map really the territory?

Before speaking, we sometimes construct a scenario that makes us act in a way that isn’t necessarily reflective of the actual situation.

A while ago, John promised to help me out in a big way with a project that I was working on. After an initial meeting and some big promises, we put together a plan and set off on its execution. A week or so went by, and I tried to get a hold of John to see how things were going. After voice mails and emails with no reply and general silence, I tried again a week later and still got no response.

I was frustrated and started to get more than a bit vexed. The project obviously meant more to me than it did to him, and I started to construct all manner of crazy scenarios. I finally got through to John and immediately started a mild rant about making promises you can’t keep. He stopped me in my tracks with the news that his brother had died. If I’d have just thought before I spoke…

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