Beach Dreaming

Flowers in ChicagoHappy April everyone!

Can you say spring (maybe summer) this past weekend in Wisconsin? We’ve been waiting all year for this, and wow has the weather delivered! In no time we’ll be taking those summer vacations, weekends up at the cabin, and lazy Saturday afternoons at the beach.

Speaking of the beach, did you catch the latest research on the beach and what spending time there does to our brains? As a bit of a nerd-head myself, I am always interested in the latest research on how we can calm down our sympathetic nervous system, since this is the cause of much of my patients' issues with sleep, incontinence, chronic pain, fibromyalgia, autonomic dysfunction, neck pain, back pain, and more. So what did the research find? Spending time at the beach listening to the rolling waves, hearing the seagulls is nearly hypnotic, creating what is called “blue space” in the human brain. It is the rhythmic repetition of the waves that helps calm our mind, inducing relaxation, and creating space for more novel, creative thoughts. This is why when we need to “clear our head” or think about something deeply, we seek out the beach, water, a park, places that calm the brain and give us clarity of mind to either focus on the issue at hand, or simply relax and let our subconscious solve the problem itself.

Spending time in nature or at the beach also help us take note of the little things that make life downright terrific when we attend to the littlest of things (a seashell) instead of the hard issues or problems going on in our daily lives. This helps reduce depression as well and improve our overall sense of well-being. For those of us who see the vivid evidence of God when we appreciate a sweeping mountain vista or bury our toes in the sand in view of the expansive ocean, we are reminded of the masterpiece of God’s creation. We appreciate that our God who knows the number of each grain of sand on the beach can surely take care of whatever difficulty is weighing on our mind.

So why talk about the beach in April? Now is the time to make the plans, put it on the calendar, and book that vacation. Americans take the least amount of vacation of any Western society, and we have some impressive numbers of folks suffering from depression and anxiety, plus other ailments related to an overly busy way of life. In fact, while we are planning, I have five things for you to fit into your summer to-do list, or even to start today!

1) Read a new book on a printed page (a real book, NOT a Kindle), outside at the beach, backyard, or in the park.

2) Fly a kite, pet a dog, or throw a frisbee (whichever activity you haven’t done in the past 2 years).

3) Lay on a beach for at least two hours, doing nothing else. If this is a problem for you, focus on deep breathing, put your feet in the sand, feed the seagulls, or worst case scenario, take a walk for part of the time on the beach.

4) Spend a lazy afternoon outside doing nothing. That’s right, nothing- for the whole afternoon!

5) Visit a new state or national park and see what’s out there! Visiting new places and doing new things also stimulates the brain and your spirit to take in novel ideas and nature’s beauty.

Five things- easy right? I’m putting them on my to do list too! Let me know how you are doing! Join our MotionWorks Facebook page for updates, and let me know the side effects of your new summer to-do list. Once you see the amazing results, I bet you will work on this list every year if you give it a try.

Dreaming of summer,
Dr. Jill Murphy
Owner/Physical Therapist
MotionWorks Physical Therapy