Taking a Break? Take your mind to the beach

Photo by Light Chaser.

One of the hardest things we face in our lives is letting go of expectations.

We’re raised as little goal setters and start our sentient lives already attuned to evaluation of the things we learn as we go.

Recall the tying of the shoelace.

Remember this?

Bunny ears, Bunny ears, playing by a tree.
Criss-crossed the tree, trying to catch me.
Bunny ears, Bunny ears, jumped into the hole,
Popped out the other side beautiful and bold.

How everyone around you celebrated as you were able to tie your shoelaces by yourself (and remember the rhyme)!

Then we go to school…and there are report cards. Yes, remember that?

And then we go to work…and there’s progress reports and 360 appraisals.

You get the picture.

All our lives we are validated by evaluation and trained to respond to superlatives. “Most.” “Award.” “Fastest.” “Remarkable.” “Purple Cow.”

OK, that last one was Seth Godin’s way of signifying the extraordinary, memorable ways companies and brands can set themselves apart.

What’s common among all these ways we grew up in is that each one gets us into a frame of mind of evaluating something we do.

It’s great for business, school and work. Without feedback systems, we can’t get better at what we do. So, evaluation has its time and place in our lives.

What does this have to do with the beach?

Sometimes, evaluation systems backfire and hit us where it hurts, our sense of wellbeing.

We drift into perfectionism, keeping up with the Joneses or with the person in the next cubicle. And adrift in evaluation land, we might give audience to the judgmental voice in our heads.

That voice of perfectionism makes it difficult to accept mistakes with equanimity, and cuts to bits what compassion we may have had for the self.

One of the goals of meditation and contemplation is to become aware of the inner critic, and accept ourselves as we are.

Life is a work in progress.

It doesn’t mean we do not strive to be better versions of ourselves. It might mean we draw upon eudaimonia, through engagement with life and the process of getting to who we want to be. Along the way, there may be approximations of that idea, and that’s all right.

We are all traveling toward more self knowledge, more patience, more trust, more compassion. Or so we hope.

Jumping to judgment is a barrier to that growth.

And, one of the ways to stop that crazy talk with yourself is to disrupt it with a low-attention strategy. A low attention strategy is like meditation, a way to safely lower barriers of defense against stressors, and open to a more contemplative, peaceful way of being.

One of the ways we can exit the evaluation loop and travel toward increased wellbeing is to go to the beach.

It turns out that there are significant reasons why being on the coast is soothing to people. A study reports that people who live in coastal areas enjoy lots of positive benefits, including:

  • Improving mood by being close to a natural setting
  • Better at recovery from stresses than urban environments
  • Correlation with fewer heart diseases and hypertension onset
  • ‘Blue spaces’ tend to have greater positive effects
  • People living near coastal areas think they gain restorative effects
  • People associate waterfront areas as more peaceful and calming

Even the view from home, whether temporary or permanent, if it includes the sea, seems to benefit people in the study.

The sensory experience at the beach brings a lot of benefits to the brain.

The rhythmic music of tides ebb and flow apparently starts off the parasympathetic nervous system, in a reaction called autonomous sensory meridian response or ASMR. (That is a lot of long words!)

Simply put, the sounds of the waves rushing to meet the shore is a lulling and relaxing sound because of its effects on your brain. The sea is like a whisper, like the world breathing.

The blue of the sea is associated with “openness, peace and tranquility,” says researcher at University of British Columbia researcher Juliet Zhu. It’s identified in our color wheel as a ‘cool’ color, and adds to the placebo effect of making us cooler and calm.

The smell of the ocean also adds to our sense of wellbeing at the beach. This article from the Telegraph reports that molecules present in ocean air that can help alleviate sad emotions.

The beach is a perfect place to de-stress on a break.

That’s why we’re sharing this video of photos with a soundtrack of waves and recalls the sensations of being at the beach.

Consider it an invitation for you to take care of yourself during times of stress by letting all expectations fall away.

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