Ever had one of those days? You know the ones. The kind where you wish you could put on noise canceling ear muffs and drown out the sound of everything just so you could think straight? We all have them. The best cure for a rough week? Group Therapy.
Going to the shooting range is always an enjoyable experience for shooters. It puts us “in the zone”. We always leave the range feeling so much better than when we came. It’s not only because we got to spend quality time with our Beretta, it’s because at the range you are forced to relax.
One of most obvious reasons why we tend to be more relaxed at the range is that shooting forces our thoughts to be focused. Sight alignment, gun safety, and range control commands force your mind to be at the range and aware of everything going on at that exact moment. Listening for ceasefire or focusing on immediate action drills leaves no room for your brain to wander to your to-do list, or the stress of work. That fact alone can leave you much less stressed, because, for even just an hour, you are completely cut off from everything else. The only thing you are focused on is how great your shots look on that new zombie target.
Breathing control and sight alignment are paramount to shot accuracy. Breathing control uses a series of deep breaths which not only ensure great shot placement, but relax the muscles in the body. (Assuming you aren’t one of those who hold their breath as they pull the trigger. If you are, stop it.) The average adult takes roughly 17 breaths per minute; that is almost four times faster than what is optimal for the chemicals in our bodies. “Whoa, Duchess! You went all Dr. House on us! What do you mean?” What I mean is this. During our everyday activities, we adults tend to take shallow, rapid breaths. This breathing sends a message to the adrenal glands which make them produce cortisol – aka – the stress hormone. When you take deep breaths to line up your shot, you are allowing a greater amount of oxygen into the body that not only relaxes the muscles in the body, it lowers blood pressure and helps reduce that good ‘ole stress.
Don’t forget the smells! Oh, the smells of CLP and freshly fired ammo! We all know that we tend to link smells to things. You know what burnt popcorn smells like, you know when you run over a skunk in the road, and you definitely know when you are at the range. Smells are so easily linked to an event or place because they are processed through a part of the brain called the olfactory bulb. Unlike all of our other senses which have to go to other parts of the brain to be processed, this little guy has direct unrestricted access to the hippocampus, and that is where all of our associative learning takes place. Meaning, as soon as you smell it, good or bad, your body makes note of what caused that smell. So, when you smell the range, your brain associates that with shooting and shooting makes you happy. Happiness releases all of your happy chemicals which combat stress chemicals like cortisol, leaving you feeling much better.
See, and here you thought you were crazy thinking the range made you feel completely better even after the worst of days. You aren’t losing your mind; you are just easing it with group therapy!