Have you ever surrendered yourself to the beach?
For as long as I can remember, I've been drawn to the water. I've always lived in coastal towns where the scent of the water was just a short drive away. I remember family trips to the beach when I was younger. Since I've been alive, we've never been able to swim in our town's lakes due to pollution, so we would always have to drive elsewhere to get the full beach experience. As most lazy beach days go, I would lay in the sun, get sand between my toes, and pretend I was a dolphin in the water until my fingers were as wrinkled as raisins. It was pure bliss and beach days continue to be something I treasure.
As I grew older, my time was mostly given to my burgeoning career and my days at the beach were less frequent. It wasn't until I moved to Copenhagen where I lived steps away from the canal that I rediscovered my inner fish. Many people know that I'm an avid winter bather, but as fond as I am of the thrill that it gives me, it still doesn't compare to the feeling of roasting summer heat and the refreshing dip in the water one takes to cool down. I would go to the beach on my days off, but even on the work days that were nice and sunny, I'd take the opportunity on my breaks to cycle to a nearby strip of water and jump in. Sometimes I would only jump once, but that was all I needed. A quick ocean fix.
The more I travelled, the more I began to understand that there would always be this longing for me to be by the water. All the trips I was booking were coastal - to the South of France, Portugal, Spain, no matter what time of year it was. I recognized that the beach, regardless of when or where, gave me the therapy I needed. I often thought that I liked the water so much because my dad is quite the seabird, as if this affinity was something one could inherit, but I think there's more behind it. What is it about the water that takes us to a seamlessly worry-free place?
Surely this is something we're programmed to know. A standard formula : the beach = relaxing. It's been spoon-fed to us in all sources of media, but with most things in the media, it's important to take it with a grain of salt (or sand haha). Think about it. Name one TV show that doesn't involve the characters at some point being brought to the beach setting to sit and think, or make amends, or make out or whatever. I'll wait.
However, it seems like there are a few scientific reasons to support the notion of the beach being therapeutic. Take the colour blue, for instance. It's been studied that the visual reception of this colour is linked to creativity, calmness and tranquility, affecting our brain waves to a point where staring out into the ocean can summon us to a meditative state (Don't you kind of feel that just by looking at these pictures?)
Another factor is the soundscape that the beach creates. Have you ever taken a nap at the beach? It's the most wonderful thing. You just close your eyes and let the sounds of the tide, seagulls singing, and children splashing, lull you to sleep. The air you smell is fresh and aquatic and maybe it's all in my head, but I feel like I can actually somehow smell the colour blue. Every once in a while a cool breeze will dance on the tip of your nose. It's an incredibly sensory experience and there's really no shavasana quite like it.
Sadly, I'm no longer living so close to the canals and it's tough because Ontario summers are much more hot and humid than those in Denmark. But I am still living by the coast. Sometimes I find that even just sitting by the water and watching the waves can be fuel me as much as jumping in the water. For me, water is where I throw my problems to dissolve. I skip stones and get rid of any pent up aggression I might be carrying. I can forget about where I'm going, where I came from, and am able to simply be at the beach.
Still, it's devastating and somewhat bothersome to think about how we take our waters for granted. It's not enough to metaphorically throw our problems into the ocean, but as a society we're also very good at throwing, quite literally, our tangible problems. Littered plastic and unwanted industrial waste contaminate our bodies of water, harming our oceans, our ecosystems, and our species. And in many cases, such as in many First Nations communities in Canada, the water is so unusable they need to rely on water bottles to drink, bathe, and cook with. And the water crisis is prevalent - avocado toast and almond milk lattes are part of the problem. Take a second the next time you go to brunch to think about what you're buying, how much freshwater it takes to grow it, and where exactly it's coming from (hint: it's likely a pretty dry place called California).
But it's not just the millennials to blame. Water is a part of nearly every step of our day.
So it's important to be mindful of this. The beach takes our problems away, so it's about time we return the favour.