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.
Happy Shark Week!
From July 22-July 29, 2018 sharks will not just dominate the oceans, they will dominate social media. Fascination with these animals never seems to wane. As a species, they are highly misunderstood.
This week, The Nature Nurse, attempts to inspire, educate and engage people to see these magnificent, important animals in a new way. We interviewed Megalodon shark tooth expert, Elliot Weston. Watch the interview and post a comment on the youtube video or the comments section below on this blog by Noon, July 29, 2018 and you will be entered to win a Megalodon Tooth. (Official Contest Rules Below).
Win this Megalodon Tooth below:
Watch this video interview and post a comment below it to enter: (more contest details below)
1. All Youtube Community Guidelines Apply.
2. Contest is FREE to enter, simply watch the interview and post a comment below The Nature Nurse Megalodon Shark Tooth video on youtube with Elliot Weston (Video) or below in this blogs comments section.
3. Must be 18 or older to enter, and have a mailing address in the Continental United States.
4. One winner will be randomly selected to win a Megalodon Shark Tooth fossil on July 29, 2018 after 12 noon. The winner will be contacted via a reply on their comment on the video post. Winner will have one week (from the time of winning notification) to reply and contact The Nature Nurse, so the tooth can be mailed, via the contact box on The Nature Nurse website. If they do not reply and share their email and postal mailing address, a new winner will be selected.
5. One comment entry per person.
6. No data will be collected in this contest from entrants.
Wounded Veterans are doing it.
Kids, even those with autism, are doing it.
People living with paralysis are doing it.
Now, The Nature Nurse™, is on a mission to invite nurses to do it. Surf.
Being on, in, near or under water has been shown to have powerful healing benefits. (1) Surfing allows us to experience all four of these water engagement methods in one sport.
Veterans report that surfing facilitates a sense of respite from post-traumatic stress disorder (2) If surfing can help relieve stress in veterans, imagine what it could do for nurses? Nurses are experiencing high levels of burnout. (3) Could surfing be a tool to help nurses deal with stress too?
I decided to try it out for myself and bring another nurse, Annie, along to see how she would react. I consulted with professional surfer Tony Silvagni, who assured me he could get even me, a middle-aged woman with an old ankle dislocation and fracture injury, standing on a surfboard.
We ventured to Carolina Beach, North Carolina on a hot, sunny Monday-excited and a bit nervous. Tony personally paired us up with surf instructors who had the expertise to get us riding on top of the waves.
Nurse Annie, a former gymnast, was a natural. After just a couple of tries, she was standing on the board and riding it as long as the wave would take her. Our instructors and I chuckled as we watched her do the 'pop up' (the lunge from lying on the board to a standing position). Nurse Annie, rocketed up.
I, on the other hand, took quite a few times to get up, but falling off the board, the way we were taught, made it kind of fun. Then, my instructor, Lenny said, "This is your wave. Start paddling!"
Following his instruction, I paddled and felt the wave scoop me up and carry the board forward as if I had just taken flight. Feeling the momentum of energy around me, I effortlessly rose to a standing position as viewers on the beach cheered. Little did I know I was a source of entertainment for the past half an hour. The thrill was totally worth it! In fact, it lasted well into the next day.
Hear for yourself what Nurse Annie thought about her surfing experience:
Both Nurse Annie and I are excited to continue practicing surfing. Not only as a source of self-care, but potentially so we can help others, even those with medical needs, experience entrainment with the energy of the ocean. We would love other nurses to join us!
Nurses who want to join The Nature Nurse Surf Experience, please contact Susan Allison-Dean at firstname.lastname@example.org .
All of us can recall a relationship with someone where we give, give, give, until we are so depleted, we can give no more. Maybe it was a spouse, a boss, or someone we thought was a friend. It often ends when our own need for survival kicks in and makes us walk away from a blood-sucking situation.
When a relationship is balanced, however, with a healthy give and take volley, it is a treasure. We enjoy giving and we bask in the returned kindness. It's a win-win.
Mother Nature, as powerful as she is, is no different. It appears she loves a reciprocal relationship as much as we do. At least that is what I have seen and experienced. Give to her, and appreciate her, she gives back, tenfold.
Two recent examples come to mind to showcase this phenomenon.
In the tropical, blue waters of the Cayman Islands an idea was born. Rudy Reyes, a former Recon Marine, who had been struggling with Post-Traumatic Stress and Depression after returning home from combat overseas, was transformed into a calmer, smiling person within days of his dive trip with friends. Jim Ritterhoff and Keith Samm, friends of Reyes, recognized the healing effect. The three men linked the need of the oceans' damaged coral reefs with the help these highly trained dive veterans could offer the reefs.
In return, the ocean was willing to help restore and repair the Veterans, who are so often too proud to ask for help. The power of water to heal is a term researcher, Dr. Wallace J. Nichols, calls Blue Mind.
Eager to share the opportunity with other combat divers to once again have a mission-save our coral reefs, Ritterhoff, a marketing expert, and Reyes, created a non-profit organization, Force Blue Team. Force Blue Team has tested the concept of partnering Veteran combat divers with Marine Biologists, as well as mental health experts, to restore coral reefs and improve the mental well being of Veterans, with great success. The program is a win-win for both our oceans and our Veterans.
A documentary film is being created called Mercy, Love and Grace- The Story Of Force Blue Team. I recently saw the premier of the introduction of the film in New York City. It was moving, inspiring, and if you forgive the pun, very deep. I think Dr. Brene Brown would be proud to see how these fierce, tough, men and women open themselves up in the movie and expose their vulnerable, human side. Their candidness on how their military missions have affected them and the joy of finding purpose and camaraderie again through Force Blue Team was emotive.
If you would like to learn more about how to help sponsor the film so that it can be completed, please visit this IndieGoGo page: Link.
Force Blue Team is also looking for donations and corporate sponsors. To learn more, please visit their website or contact them. Their website is www.forceblueteam.org .
Over on dry land another reciprocal relationship with nature blooms. This one in Raleigh, North Carolina, just a few miles from the Capital city.
A drive down Old Baucom Road will lead you to an explosion of yellow sunflowers standing at attention, like soldiers, to the sun. Photographers, families, dog walkers and bikers gather along the white fence surrounding the field to bask in the awe.
While the happy flowers bring immense joy to hundreds who flock to see the massive bloom, they have a greater purpose.
According to the City Of Raleigh, " The fields serve as an application site for biosolids from the Neuse River Resource Recovery Facility. The stabilized sludge (biosolids) is applied to the field as a fertilizer. The sunflowers are planted to keep the nitrogen-rich soil from washing into the streams and rivers in the watershed. Finally, the sunflowers are harvested and the seeds are used to produce biodiesel."
They also are a smorgasbord for our struggling pollinators-honeybees, bees, and butterflies. They were loving them!
Once again, Mother Nature seems thrilled to give back for the efforts to protect her.
To learn more about our reciprocal relationship with nature and how nature can help heal you and promote your wellness, sign up for Sue's blog and/or socialize with her on social media @TheNatureNurse.