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.