Ocean. Salty waves. Vitamin Sea. We flock to the ocean to renew in its endless rhythmic waves. The waves: new with each crest, yet constant in rhythm and energy. Negative ions boost mood, the crashing wave sounds settle the backs of our brains, an area called the cerebellum. A sense of security, safety, peace, and calm saturates our awareness.
How does this blue element make our minds rest? The wavelength of the colour blue has been found to both energize and calm, soothe, and aliven. Less hopelessness is observed in areas lit with blue light in Japan. Anxiety decreases in blue. Better connection to emotional areas in the brain happens when people gaze at blue.
Blue light also signals a fine network of cells at the back of our retinas. These cells, melanopsin cells, turn the melatonin and serotonin switch in our pineal gland to “off” when they see blue, promoting alertness. Perhaps the drama of the surround blue when surfing, ie. the blue water and blue sky, sets a strong alert state. So strong, that when we move away from it, the sleep pressure builds and we have the deepest sleep apres surf. The deep sleep sets the stage for better memory, better mood, and less anxiety.
However, there is more to the shift in state than simply the blue of sky and water. Staring into blue sky does not have the same effect. The motion of the waves and being immersed in water, decrease catecholamines. Catecholamines are tiny molecules our bodies produce when we are stressed. They turn up the volume on our sympathetic nervous system, promoting anxiety and decreasing sleep. Immersing in water also correlates to decreases in cortisol, the hormone that is produced in excess when we are more stressed. Lactate, a molecule that gathers in muslces after exercise and is associated wtih inflammation, decreases in the surround of negative ions in the sea. So, the tiny elements of our molecules and hormones, change to better levels when we immerse in water. Immersing in water de-stresses our bodies.
Part of the de-stress is due to changing brain waves, when we are around water. The undulations of the waves persuade our minds to adopt an alpha wave state. Alpha waves are a slower wave of thinking, compared to beta waves. We use beta waves when we think a lot, and focus on work, on problem solving. Too much beta wave activity, tires and exhausts us. We need to rest and replenish in alpha wave states. Studies show that shifting into alpha wave states more frequently boost efficency and ability at probelm solving. So, staring at the moving surface of water enhances our fluid intelligence.
Alpha rhythm patterns also happen when you practice mindfulness. Mindfulness, and observing a body of water, can help us relate better to our emotions. Studies show that being in alpha rhythm enables us to navigate and understand emotions better. So the two combined, can help integrate emotional understanding, and deepen relaxation. Even further, perhaps using both exposure to water and immersion in water, with mindfulness, can set a mental habit that, when practiced daily, deepens the calm felt in every day life.
To take this one step further, consider surfing. Surfing immerses us in water, requires we pay attention moment to moment to the changing waves, yet relaxes us as we rest on the swell, waiting for the right moment, the sweet wave. Not only does surfing improve mood and
decrease anxiety, it also increases dopamine in the brain. Dopamine and serotonin are depleted in times of stress, so surfing can “reboot” our brains as part of a stress recovery plan.
We live in the “Age of Anxiety”. People are trying to do more, be more, work more, know more. People work hard to achieve the goals of house, car, marriage, kids, schools, and financial security. Then, for those of us whom arrive at this place, there is suddenly a lackluster feeling. Everything has been achieved. But the price paid is too high. The price paid is a habit of high stress. Burn out is being seen more often in busy professionals, and even dementia may be happening at ages as early as forty years old in high achievers. We need to de-stress, we need to recover, we need to renew.
Our beautiful blue element on this planet, the sparkling and wild ocean, may be a part of the cure for the stress in our modern times. Surfing, or connecting to the ocean, may promote a state that brings us back to our natural birthright of happiness and peace.
“Blue mind” a term coined by Walace J. Nichols, describes the state of mind that results from being in, on, or around water. “Blue mindfulness” is a term we coined at The Homestead Tofino, to specify the kind of mindfulness that we teach our guests. By encouraging guests to practice blue mindfulness during one week long retreats, we hope they take the sense of calm renewal gained during the retreat, back to their daily lives.
Our week long program includes an immersion in the wild surroundings of Tofino. Ocean immersion through surfing and being on the water through paddling are two activties that help guests access blue mindfulness. Simply gazing out every morning and night, onto the ocean waves from the living room and breakfast area, also engages blue mindfulness. Once accessed, mindfulness practices guided throughout the week, set the stage to deepen the blue mind state. Immersion in the rich oxygenated environment of forest and mountain is also part of the retreat, boosting immune health and normalizing blood pressure, and powering up our mitochondria.
Our Homestead Tofino team is thrilled to spend time in the lush realm that Tofino provides, and we note the benefits on many levels of health. We are excited to share this with people from all over the world, in a setting that provides comfort, high end lodging, and seamlessly hosted activites for a smooth and replenishing week of skill building and wellness.
We’d love you to drop by, if you live in Tofino or are visiting. We are always happy to talk with prospective guests, and with local people curious about what we offer in our wellness and fitness retreats. If you live out of town, call us and we’ll talk with your more about how our program deepens relaxation, sets goals for your future, and supports you achieve the outcome of better health and a vibrant mind and heart.