Nature is so diverse that saying “nature improves wellbeing” could be too vague. Maybe all nature has one common impact in that it is different, “other”, so it opens up new ways of looking at life and reconnects us with the elements. But in many ways one impact will be totally distinct from another. Time spent in woodland or by a river will obviously differ from time spent by the sea. Then again, time spent by the sea will differ from time spent at sea, sailing, or time in the sea, swimming.
Watching the sea from land can be calming, restorative, or exciting. Tides ebb & flow, waves crest & foam, water laps on a shore. The sea will have different impacts on us in different conditions, still or stormy. Some people like walking along the shore once the tide has gone out, seeing what is left behind. Cliffs, rock pools, sand dunes, all can be distinct environments to explore. Even indoors, inland, we can still experience the sea. Online or in books, marine photography allows us to glimpse the wonders of the deep. Sea sounds recorded underwater using hydrophones and played online can evoke the ocean – whale song is probably the most famously therapeutic. Listening to music inspired by the sea (maybe folk songs or classical music) is another way to connect. Art and craft are a way to respond as well: painting can recreate a moment, while some people enjoy crafying with driftwood and objects they find while out beachcombing.
The sea can be experienced across the senses, which is known to have a more positive impact on wellbeing. You can feel a sea breeze or ocean spray, see light on the water, smell the sea air and hear the tide or the waves. I”ve heard people share different ways they find the sea helpful – walking, sitting, listening, swimming, even diving.
Maybe the sea’s own impact is more diverse than other impacts of nature. The sea is a place of mystery, of unfathomable deeps, of unknowns and darkness – but also a place of life and colour. It is home to so many contrasting life forms, from the immense to the microscopic. The sea’s mystery can also be menacing and you need to beware. But it can be partly its power which enthralls people and boosts wellbeing. Such a vast and different world can sometimes help us see our own struggles in a new light.
One book which struck me was “Against The Flow” by Dee Caffari: an account of becoming the first woman to sail solo non-stop around the world against the prevailing winds and currents, in 2006. Along the way the book explores Dee’s responses to this experience, the highs and lows and the extremes of nature: sailing across the remoteness of the Southern Ocean; extreme storms; threatening ice; but also vivid sunsets; reflections on the water; pods of dolphins; and the clarity of the night sky. The voyage tested Dee’s powers of endurance to the utmost, while allowing her times of sheer wellbeing. A solo circumnavigayion may be an unusually extreme way to connect with the sea, but it’s an insight into the power of the oceans.
Would any of you like to share what impact the sea has on your own or others’ wellbeing? It would be great if you would like to share on Medley’s Facebook group https://www.facebook.com/groups/359291215486002 Thank you.