Finding space (on World Mental Health Day)

The Beach Today

Finding space

Sometimes all we need is a little space to ourselves. To hear ourselves breathe. To let our shoulders fold downwards, feel safe enough to close our eyes and let our mind spin out to sea, into the sky or anywhere other than rattling around our skulls….

Did you know?

The beach environment is known as a Blue Space. We are perhaps more aware of the term Green Space, which refers to woodlands, parks or rural pastoral scenes. Blue spaces are officially described as outdoor environments–either natural or manmade–that prominently feature water and are accessible to people’. The term includes rivers, lakes or the sea.

Research has shown that most people suffering from depression tend to have their mood improved when they take nature walks. They feel encouraged, and their chances of recovering and healing from an illness increase. Not enough of us get out and find our nearest Space these days – where is yours?

Richard Louv coined the phrase ‘Nature Deficit Disorder’ in his 2005 book Last Child in the Woods. He was concerned about our loss of connection with our natural world. We don’t need much, but we do need to take a moment to look about us, to find a small and simple connection with nature to get a “buzz”, be it a robin at the front door or sitting in the garden watching a butterfly.

Do walks on the beach in a Blue Space have the same beneficial impact as walking through a wood, in a Green Space? A 2013 study explored the impact of natural environments on happiness. One of the largest of its kind (with 20,000 participants), the research asked individuals to use their smartphones and record their feelings and their environment. Participants who lived near a blue space — usually a coastal setting — rated consistently higher feelings of wellbeing compared with those who lived in urban environments.

The research has created an interesting intersection between health psychology and climate researchers. BlueHealth is an interdisciplinary research team aiming to understand better the connections between blue spaces, climate and health. It was found that “the balance of evidence suggested a positive association between greater exposure to outdoor blue spaces …(benefitted) mental health and well-being…”

Reflective Moment

Land and sky collide

I invite you step onto this empty beach. There is only you. Leave everyone and everything else behind in the room, and just step through the frame onto the wet sand. And breathe. Feel the air fill up your chest as your heart lifts up towards the sky, feel the warm breath woosh out of your nose, emptying your lungs, expelling with it all your stresses and worries. The sea air today is not cold, but there is a soft South wind blowing over the pebble ridge out to sea. There is, however, a slight nip that comes with October, and you stride across the sand to keep out the chill. Try and keep your mind full of what you see – sky ribbed with cirrus clouds and the sand beneath your toes dark and wet.

Turn towards the sea, far out along the horizon; a frilly edge of gentle surf. See the sky reflected in the wet sand, you are ‘sandwhiched’ between earth and sky, hugged by elements that know no judgement, criticism, hate nor exclusion – all are equally hugged, all are caressed by the wind and splashed by the puddles on the ground. You are not separate nor alone, but part of what you see, where you are in the present moment. Rest in this for a moment.

Just sky, sea and me

Sand lies before you wiped clean by the tide, all of yesterday gone. What will you write in the sand today?

In the peace of the space take the strength you need to be able to strike a balance between taking care of yourself and taking care of others, between loving yourself and loving others, and being alone and being with others.

Sounds from the Beach

I must go down to the sea again: the lonely sea and the sky

John Masefield

One response to “Finding space (on World Mental Health Day)”

  1. What lovely images and contemplative words, a walk on the beach when the sea is calm and the sky is blue brings a sense of deep peace. Perfect for World Mental Health Day.

    Liked by 1 person

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