Monday, July 7, 2014

Get Thee to a Beach

Nothing soothes my soul like being around water. Especially on a beautiful day like yesterday. Believe it  or not, for an urban location, the Chicago area has some pretty decent beaches. There's one only a 15-minute drive away from us so I've been going out there for a walk in the morning or early evening. It was just what I needed yesterday to regroup after a busy weekend and another busy week coming up. 







Such a beautiful day - we had the beach all to ourselves.


Spending time out in nature and away from people (and computers) is extremely relaxing and for many of us it improves our well being in all sorts of ways. But sometimes I forget that.





There's a theory called Attention Restoration Theory (ART!) that explains why the human mind needs nature. Research points out two types of attention that the brain uses: directed and involuntary. We make use of directed attention when we're extremely focused or working on a computer, for example. This is often draining and demanding if you need to (or choose to) spend hours at it. Focused attention on our phones, tablets or laptops for long periods of time literally drains our brains. And we know this, right?


The best way to recharge yourself and also improve cognitive function is through involuntary attention where you can switch off that directed attention for a bit. Our brains perform differently when we spend time in natural settings, simply watching clouds pass in the sky or reflecting upon the sound of crunching leaves or running water over rocks, all effortless. When we do this, our brain's attention automatically changes to involuntary, allowing us to "decompress" in a sort of meditative way.



Studies also show that water is the environment we respond to best in terms of mood improvement and feelings of calmness. For years I knew this instinctively but could never explain it. 



We're not lucky enough to live near the ocean or mountains or even in a peaceful country setting but I'll take what I can get. Going to the beach and listening to the water was still so wonderfully restorative I could close my eyes and pretend it was the ocean. Good enough sometimes. Good enough.






14 comments:

Karen - Quilts...etc. said...

I live fairly close to an inland lake - very small in comparison to Lake Michigan which I grew up next to - the lake we are near doesn't have good shore line beaches at all - I do miss that - I always like it when we travel and are camped near a lake that has a nice beach area to walk along even if it is short.

sunny said...

We spent the weekend at the Finger Lakes in NY. Given a choice, I will always find my way to water, whether it be the ocean, a lake, or a river. The best way to recharge my batteries! I wouldn't have thought there were beaches that close to Chicago!

Heartsdesire said...

Thanks for your informative post today. I'm fortunate to live but a 10-minute drive to the ocean, with easy access, and a lovely walkway. The mountains are also close with views of the Costal Range on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State from my kitchen window. They're so high, they're still snow topped. I tend to take these luxuries for granted, and when I read your post, it made me realize how lucky I am to live on Vancouver Island surrounded by such beauty.

Dora, the Quilter said...

Oops! I live in the desert--which says something about how appreciated our recent rains have been.
I often get frustrated by my 40 mile commute to work, but I do find that just watching nature for the last 25 miles or so of my commute home really helps me get my brain together. Thanks for sharing this information.
And I'm glad you had lovely time at the beach.

Donna K. from N. Texas said...

Recharging your mind and spirit...priceless.

Ann in PA said...

What a beautiful setting! The peace & quiet of time spent outdoors is always refreshing. Thank you for sharing...it is a good reminder to turn off the electronics and get outside.

Liz L said...

Thank you for sharing the information. I always feel less tired and stressed after a good walk on the trails near my home. I am very fortunate too as my home is very close to the ocean and often I take a drive along the Oceanside Route just to relax and enjoy the view.

marie said...

We live 40 miles from the coast (Oregon) and visit about 4 times a year. The waves, sometimes huge, and smell of salt water is so soothing. I live within 10 miles of the ocean (Atlantic) for more than 45 years. I love the wildest of the Pacific the best---maybe someday you can visit it.

Kathleen Tracy said...

I know! We drove to Oregon from Seattle and then drove down the coast to southern CA on our honeymoon. It was beautiful!

Jennifer M said...

Kathy your making me want to go to a beach....enjoyed your pictures and informative post. We all need this, more than we realize I'm sure. Thanks for the reminder to reenergize:)

Jennifer

Kim said...

I never thought I would love any lake as much as I do Lake Superior, but now that I've spent many days on the shore of Lake Michigan, I have a new love. I've found myself comparing this lake and beaches to So Cal beaches. Time at the lake can usually set life straight once again.

liz said...

Come teach for us in Oregon we will take to the ocean : )

Jill said...

Lake Michigan is so pretty with her sandy beaches. I live an hour away from Lake Huron and it soothes my soul when I go visit. This Michigander prefers the Great Lakes over the ocean.

Pinkadot Quilts said...

Great post! I am going to the beach this weekend (the Atlantic) and am so looking forward to it. Now I will have new insight....

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