Article by Two Wise Chicks
Post Design by Christy Zigweid
Photo by Unsplash via Pixabay CC (Photo made using @WordSwagApp)
"We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea — whether it is to sail or to watch it — we are going back from whence we came.”
There's something about the ocean isn't there?
Even when the weather is inclement I love to go watch and listen to the waves crashing about, the stones being thrown around, the sand being churned, the constant ebbing and flowing - sometimes the noisier the better!
Sunsetting at Claycastle, Youghal.
What I particularly love about this time of year though is the light. The colours dance and change more often as the Summer eases its way back into our lives.
Most of us think of the sea, rivers or lakes when we imagine holidays. We associate water with fun, refreshment, exploration, self soothing. We retreat to showers and baths when we're stressed. Youtube is awash with mindfulness and relaxation clips with water sounds in the background. Our breathing changes when we hear normal waves, we slow down unconsciously and match the pace. And the physical and emotional effects of that are profoundly positive.
We tend to turn to water for serenity, for clarity, for all that is life affirming.
Splash at Ballinwillig, East Cork
Science agrees. Environmental scientist Mat White has done several interesting studies and found that "proximity to the coast was positively associated with good health, with a small, but significant increase in the percentage of people reporting good health among populations residing closer to the sea".
Another academic called Depledge presented people with landscape images that had increasing amounts of water in them. He found that "going from a pond right through to a coastline, with increasing amounts of water in the images, people showed a strong preference for more and more water in the images.
We have evidence that natural environments promote physical activity, reduces stress, restores cognitive ability and increases social interaction. Just think of the average day 'out the strand' - isn't that what happens? We run, throw stones, play with dogs and children. We salute strangers, chat to them about each others' pets, the weather.... Then we get back into the car and feel.. tingly, 'glowy' - better! All good.
Another thing that happens near water is exposure to negative ions - and these tiny things have enormously positive effects on our brains. The more movement in the water, the more negative ions are present. And we think this explains why we find crashing waves and water-sports so utterly exhilarating! In fact, this idea taken so seriously as a theory that negative ion generators are being tested as treatment for depression in Columbia University.
And how happy do children look when splashing around in puddles, real or plastic?!
Even in urban settings, "from fountains in squares to canals running through the city... again people hugely preferred the urban environments that had more water." (Depledge again).
Future research at the ECEHH (European Centre for Environment and Human Health - bit of a mouthful) includes studies looking at the effect of video screens showing aquatic environments in elderly care homes, and the benefits of views over sea or water from home or hospital windows. It sounds nice doesn't it? Here's a clip I took in Killarney - and even though it's a lake, not the ocean, I still found it mesmerising to be there, watching.
Evening stroller at Garryvoe
And what's your favourite colour? Our affinity for water is even reflected in the near-universal attraction to the colour blue. We're naturally drawn to aquatic hues and blue is overwhelmingly chosen as the favourite colour of people around the world. Also, marketing research consistently finds that we associate blues with qualities like calm, openness, depth and wisdom.
"Let (sea)food be thy medicine" - Hippocrates
It seems to make evolutionary sense too - we need water to live obviously, but also we benefit hugely from the creatures that live in the water. Neuroscientist Michael Crawford of the University of North London has proposed that our ancestors were devotees of the sea, and that "this devotion has paid off by allowing us to develop larger and more complex brains".
Moving towards the sea gave us a marine diet that was packed with omega-3 fatty acids, essential fatty acids that promote brain cell growth. He theorises that this is why human brain growth began to increase exponentially once we left the woods and headed for the beach.
We have also learned that people who eat fish regularly, are less like to suffer from depression than those who don't. Indeed fish is a symbol of happiness and good health across a broad spectrum of religions and cultures.
So I don't know how you feel about eating fish - I'm not a huge fan myself actually. But I am a huge fan of the sea, and am cognisant of its healing effect on me, and on many of the clients I work with. I am utterly grateful to live and work a mere five minutes from waves and fresh air and I find myself trotting down to the quay or the beach every week to fill my lungs with the delicious saltiness of it all.
For those of use living near the coast (and that's all of us in Ireland really!) it's a resource worth using. Get out there, go for a walk. Breath in that air, feel the wind in your hair, the seaspray on your skin! And for those few moments or hours, immerse yourself in the experience (or even in the water!! #brrr) - go with the rhythm of it - there is plenty of evidence to suggest you'll feel better afterwards.
The sea is resilience at its beautiful best. Just as we are.
That's a little clip of some sanderlings I had fun watching on Youghal beach last week - cuteness!
About the Authors
Sally wants to help create a world of compassion for ourselves and others. A world where mistakes are allowed, gender roles don’t exist, sex ed in schools is a real thing and everyone dances – lovely! As a psychologist and psychotherapist in Ireland, she’s worked for nearly twenty years in private practice, with adults and trainee adults of all ages. She blogs on her own website, is a feature writer for super duper parenting website Voiceboks.com, does print and radio media work and has been known to Tweet. She’s the one running our Twitter page!
When she’s not working, you will find her engrossed in Science Fiction or some dark and Danish TV show, listening to music, watching the sea (while really, really wishing it were warmer), or figuring out how to work Lightroom on her Mac. All while munching on Bombay mix.
She’s happiest when dancing and erm…. her cat has his own Facebook page. We won’t link to that, it’s too embarrassing..
Tanya looks forward to living in a world where people know their worth, respect boundaries, and always have time for tea and chocolate. A magic bubble that protects her from sticky fingers, hormonal girls and dog hair would be awesome as well.
Her education and much of her training is in the areas of psychology and human potential. She worked as a licensed psychologist for over 14 years, with 10 of those years spent building her own successful private practice. In total, she has over 20 years of varied experience working, volunteering for non-profit agencies, and consulting to small business. Most recently she has launched her dream online coaching practice where she gets to work with motivated, amazing women who need help overcoming life’s hurdles. Exciting times!
She has lived in Ireland, Ethiopia (okay, just 6 months), Canada, and currently lives in central Texas with her husband, three girls (including fraternal twins), two dogs and three cats.
When she’s not finding ‘everyday moments’ to write about here or on her own blog, you can find her being walked by her dogs, unearthing unidentifiable food-objects under the couch cushions or baking her famous banana bread.
Tanya runs our Facebook page – and not to be outdone by Sally’s cat, her dog has its own Facebook page too.
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