Strolling along the beach in search of a treasure can be a mindfulness activity. The practice of mindfulness is a widely accepted as helping to ease stress. (1) Studies are also concluding the effects mindfulness has on our brain and research is undergoing on how it may help many other health concerns including weight loss, addiction and pain, to name a few. (2)
In a world filled with things tugging for our attention, it takes a conscious effort to practice mindfulness. The practice of slowing down, being present, and simply allowing thoughts and feelings wander into our heads, then letting them go may not be easy at first. The beach with its soothing, rhythmic lullaby of the waves can be a perfect place to try this self-care tool.
For those of us with busy minds, searching for treasures on the beach can be an entryway into a deeper meditative state. By focusing on what lies amongst the minute pieces of sand, we can begin blocking out many of life's distractions.
A couple of guidelines to consider before taking anything from the beach or sea include:
1. Check with local beach authorities if there are any rules or restrictions about removing things from the beach. Believe it or not, a tourist was recently issued a hefty fine for taking sand during his trip to Sardinia. (3)
2. Never take anything that is alive.
For example: Sand dollars.
Sand dollars are actually flat, burrowing sea urchins. When they die, their exoskeleton is white with a five point star-like design in the center.
The brownish, green one on the left below is alive. A pure white one is dead.
So, what can you search for? Let's take a look at 3 things.
1. Seaglass: Glass objects that make their way into the ocean break and are tumbled in rocks and sand to create smooth edged pieces of glass. They can come in a large assortment of colors with varying shades. Green, white and brown are often the most common as they come from beer or soda bottles. These jewels from the sea can be used to make a variety of crafts or just sprinkle them around your home as decor. Orange is the most rare color to find.
2. Shark Teeth: The jaws of shark house three rows of teeth that shed like a conveyer belt. Having lived for millions of years, their ancestors teeth have fossilized and may be found dotting the shores of places like the southeast coast of the United States.
Finding a Megalodon tooth is akin to winning the lottery! It does occasionally happen. If you missed our recent interview with Megalodon shark tooth expert, Elliot Weston, check it out when you have time.
Most teeth, however, are from one of the many other species of sharks. You'll have to look very closely to find one. Their black, shiny coating is often mistaken for shells that have similar coloring. If you're lucky to find one, wrap it in wire to create a necklace and good conversation piece.
3. Trash: Sadly no matter where you are in the world, you will likely find litter during your search. Plastic, cigarette butts, balloons, kids toys, plastic bags and bottles are just a few items you may find. This trash sculpture made from beach litter demonstrates how diverse the garbage invading our beaches has become. Consider bringing a trash bag along to pick up the trash you find and say thank you to the joy the beach brings.
But, what about shells and stones?
The guiding principle of engaging in nature is to leave it as you found it. While taking a token or your favorite shell might not have a devastating effect on the environment, billions of people taking shells will. Our current global population is at 7.6 billion and counting. Imagine if everyone decided to take home shells from the beach? Beachcombers removing shells may impact the marine ecosystem (4).
If we must take a shell home, perhaps we can pick our favorite find of the day, rather than taking a bucketful home. Finding your own memento rather than purchasing a shell from a tourist shop is probably a better option. It just may help the environment. The souvenir industry is devastating ocean animal populations worldwide for their shells. Harvesting live marine life for the souvenir industry is devastating ocean animal populations worldwide. (5)
Visiting a rocky beach may not be such a bad thing if you wear water shoes and search for a unique shape of stone. Maybe you want to look for a heart shape stone or a perfectly round one? Beach stones can make great canvases to practice Aboriginal dot painting on.
Painting in this way can be very relaxing. But again, maybe just take your favorite stone of the day. The art of stone stacking has become controversial. Environmentalists say it has the potential to impact the marine environment. Others say that this mindful activity has been found to help children with attention deficit disorders.(6)
As you find yourself sinking into a deeper relaxed state, you may find that you notice things hiding in the sand that you never noticed before. Sand crabs peeking out of holes, the remains of a sandcastle built earlier but slowly being deconstructed by the waves, or maybe even footprints left by a baby sea turtle who has just hatched and ran for the water.
Watch as Jackie Levin, board certified Advanced Holistic Nurse, who specializes in teaching mindfulness to nurses explains how we can engage in mindfulness in a deeper way along the beach:
How deep do you think you can practice mindfulness at the beach? Could simply enjoying observing the magnificence of nature's treasures lying amongst the sand, while the warm sun releases the tension in your muscles and the gentle wind whispers in your ear be enough of a treasure to take home?
Can't get to the beach right now? Enjoy these short scenes from the sea and please comment below on how they make you feel.
Looking for more ways to learn how nature may help your health and well-being? Check out The Nature Nurse™ youtube channel. You may also subscribe to this blog or The Nature Nurse™ newsletter.
February is the season of love. As cupid shoots his arrow into our hearts, let’s take a moment to celebrate something we all love for different reasons-nature. Here are seven reasons we may love nature. I would love to hear what you would add to this list.
#1 Nature Accepts Everyone
No matter what color you are, how many years you have tucked under your belt, where you live, what gender you call yourself, nature welcomes all.
#2 Nature is Free
Engaging in nature can be as simple as stepping outside and breathing in a deep, cleansing breath of fresh air (assuming you live where the air is clean), dipping your toes in the ocean, or planting a seed in the soil.
#3 Nature Is Fun
Think back to your childhood days. Does a smile creep onto your face remembering raking leaves into a giant pile and then jumping in them? Playing flashlight tag under the stars on a warm summer night with friends? As an adult do you enjoy living through a child’s eyes as they toss a stone in a pond and jump for joy as it splashes sending rippling circles from the epicenter? Maybe you just enjoyed a long bike ride through the country with friends. It doesn’t take much to have fun outside.
#4 Nature Calms Our Brains
Whether it is the lure of a gushing waterfall, the mesmerizing effect of watching birds visit the birdfeeder or leaving our cares behind to focus on finding the perfect shell on miles of sand, nature has a way of putting our busy, overactive minds at ease.
#5 Nature Is A Free Gym
We can leave our excuses on the couch and burn away unneeded pounds simply by engaging in nature.
Lawn Mowing: On average we burn about fifty calories every eight minutes of walking with the lawnmower.
Hiking: You can burn fifty calories in just six minutes of intense hiking.
Play fetch with Fido: Your pets love the outdoors too! Fifteen minutes of playing fetch burns an average of fifty calories.
#6 Nature Inspires Our Creativity
Feeling stuck, in a rut? New research shows that a walk in nature can help break our ruminating thoughts, the ones that swirl around and around like a cow chewing on grass. This opens the mind to new thoughts and ideas.
#7 Nature Gives Us Food
Deep blue berries, juicy strawberries, crunchy celery, tart apples-the list are endless and it all comes from nature. What’s not to love about that?
What reasons would you add to love nature?
Happy Valentine's Day!
The dark days of fall are behind us. Those deepening days that find us reflecting, craving comfort food and wanting to go to bed earlier than usual.
Today, the day after the winter solstice, the days begin to inch their way to include more minutes of sun and fewer minutes of night.
We may notice our energy levels rise, our moods brighten and a yearning to take on new challenges.
Nature has seasons for reasons. The more we engage in nature, the more we connect with the natural rhythm of life. We can catch the waves of opportunity just as surfers do. We can also connect with an greater intuitive knowing of when to slowdown, wait, and just be as well.
What do you notice about yourself as the seasons change?
Boo! The season of Halloween is upon us and there are scarier things than witches, goblins and black cats that we may want to beware of. These things are not only scary; they are tricky. So tricky, in fact, we may have been inviting them in to our homes for years. What are they?
The first thing haunts your body in ways we are only beginning to better understand; sugar. Yes, the very thing we love to gather on Halloween night. Recent revelations show that we have been manipulated into thinking fat is the contributor to many diseases when in fact it is sugar.
Sugar is today’s tobacco. It is addictive, found everywhere, and has no health benefit. The World Health Organization recently upgraded their sugar recommendation to less than 5% of our daily consumption or 25 grams. 25 grams, do you know how much that is? Take a look at this table to see how your favorite candy rates in terms of grams of sugar. Be sure to note, they are talking about the ‘fun size’. I don’t know about you, but enjoying just one ‘fun size’ is tough. To learn more about sugar and its health effects, you may want to check out Authority Nutrition. They are a great resource for evidenced-based information about nutrition. I have to thank, Kati Kleber, aka ‘Nurse Eye Roll’ for recommending me to this great site.
Scared yet? No, okay, maybe a little? I hate to be the scrooge of Halloween, but I believe awareness is power. When we are aware of problems we can be proactive in avoiding them rather than get bonked on the head and forced to react to them. So let’s move on to the second really scary thing about Halloween these days; plastic.
If you follow me on social media or have read my second novel, By The Sound Of The Crow, you know about the hazards of plastic. Ridding our oceans of plastic is something that I am very passionate about as I have seen the fatal results of it as whales, dolphins, sea turtles and other marine life ingest it, as they mistake it for food. Plastic doesn’t biodegrade, not even “biodegradable plastic”. Experts predict that if we do not stop the flow of plastic into our oceans, over 80% of which comes from land, we will have more plastic in the ocean by 2050 than fish.
All we have to do is go into one of our local retail stores and chances are these two scary things, sugar and plastic, will be haunting and taunting us. If you find that scary too, let’s join together to share ideas how we can enjoy this Halloween season without these two ghosts.
If sugar and plastic scare you too, lets join together and create change. Do you have ideas on how we can reduce sugar and plastic this Halloween? Feel free to share them below. Let’s connect on social media and spread our ideas and increase awareness of these two issues that affect our health and the health of our planet.
I invite you to sign up for my blog as I present some ideas that I have collected. Together we can make Halloween fun and less scary.