Monday, January 28, 2013

Better at the beach

If you can't live at the beach (and even if you do) a beach lifestyle magazine might be the handiest way to enjoy it.  

When our schedules eat up free time, or bank accounts balk when we start to dream of the seashore, our longings can get answered in other ways. Here's where the magazines come in. 

They convey the fresh palette of maritime colors, the cottage decor and the coastal persuasions central to our interests. They allow us to indulge in our penchant for the sea.

Coastal Living is one of my favorite magazines for this very reason. It's my maritime escape when the closest I approach salt air is salting the boiling water at the stove as I cook spaghetti.

With this magazine in tow I can dream boldly of my someday home on the coast. I can breathe in the ocean vibe. The pictures and stories speak to me. They make me happy every time.

This is why reference to an article in the February 2013 issue is appearing in this blog.

I typically page through a magazine before it's read. I flip from front to back or back to front. It doesn't make any difference. Either way lets me assess the material quickly. It tells me what's inside and where to start.

My method was abandoned with this issue as it turned out. "Why the Beach Makes Us Happy" had my attention from the moment I landed on its page. I stopped and read the article through to conclusion.  

Pairing beach and happy is like saying meat and potatoes it strikes me. You can't say one without at least the image of the other word showing up too.

The two are a natural fit for each other. They create an image that's right and clear. You don't even have to think about it to know it. 

I was curious about what author Barry Yeoman has to say on the subject of happiness and the beach. Favoring beaches as I do I've spent little time wondering why they make me happy. They just do.

When you know the science behind your affinities you can better know yourself and the object of your affinity. Better is a good direction to head even when you already know you're happy/happier/happiest at the beach.

Yeoman starts out by summing up the obvious. Our attraction to the sea is right in front of us. Blue, for instance, the color of sea and sky, is considered a calming color. 

It makes sense we look to nature to give balance. Nature uses colors as a doctor might prescribe medicine. We;re instinctively drawn to what heals and restores.

The beauty of seacoasts is another of Yeoman's suggestions as to why humans are drawn to the ocean. 

The observation is also made that a week at the beach is usually vacation time. Vacation makes it a winning bet right there.

Many of us tweak our routines or ditch them entirely when on vacation. We maybe reduce our time on electronic devices. We manage to survive, we learn, but it can feel weird and strange to cut back or let go.

Away from the office work deadlines have a faint voice. We can hardly hear them. At the beach we're more free to go with our flow wherever our decisions take us.

We're more able, in most instances, to get up, eat, dally or exercise as we choose. We can scramble the order any which way, and do so every day if we desire.

Humans need a certain amount of being in control. Calling the shots - making decisions minus the usual controls that inform decisions at home - makes the beach a particularly relaxing place to be.

Yeoman then proceeds to the experts to more broadly  examine our contentment at the seashore and help explain why it's pure joy to dig our toes deep into the wet sand. 

Scientific research will continue to provide fascinating insights into our relationship with water he tells us. 

As we come to understand the importance of these findings they in turn acquire a new value. They can help towards saving the ocean, inestimably precious for the environment as well as for our recreation.

The scientists quoted in the article get me to think about my enthusiasm for the seashore. 

Wonderful hours have been spent at many different beaches. This hasn't caused me to speculate about the precise reasons for the enjoyment.

When I poke around and give some thought to it no great revelation jumps out. My conclusions more or less line up with comments made in Yeoman's article.
Visual beauty, smells (think of the smells as a mix of sea air, sunscreen, hot dog stands and onshore shrubbery)  and the low rhythmic sounds of waves, or the crashing, smashing strength of breakers, engage the senses. 

These don't cover half the sensory cues found at the beach. Seashores, to list all their attributes, are a sensory power load.

Ocean breezes, shore birds, sunshine melting us into pools of nodding acquiescence and contact of feet with sand as we walk the beach, footprints pressing in to mark our track to meet the water, seem like a healing process to me. 

The flat ocean surface stretches to the horizon. It adds zero complexity to what our eyes take in, giving a sense of security to the view. 

Something comes together in us. We respond to the simplicity. 

Inside us, where emotions form and memories are made, we're molded by the biddable moments. We pause in them. As we find peace within nature we find it in ourselves.

The beach is restorative whether we exercise, rest, read or visit in family groups or party as friends.

It's what we do at the beach that counts. Doing it, and enjoying it, may account in part for the beach's fabled restorative powers.   

The closeness of beach-goers packed together on the sand can create an intense sense of celebration. 

Bright towels, warm sunlight, neon t-shirts, aromas of food and sounds of children's play teach us to associate the beach with freedom and festivity. 

The brain interprets freedom and festivity correctly. They're the champions for fun. They spell irrepressible and spontaneous and they can bring out the best in us. The brain likes this kind of thing.

It automatically pops the moment in the happy times file. Beach in the memory drawer is a prime reason it has appeal. We attach where memory is laid down.

Our connection to the sea probably has its start with life itself. We go back a long way with the sea. This is why words like affinity, contentment and satisfaction are used to describe our attachment to the sea.

It's also why, when a beach calls our name, we pack our swimwear and go. 

The beach calls but we have to listen. Its voice can go faint if we don't respond. 

While we sharpen our inner ear to hear it we wait with this certainty. We can rely on Coastal Living to get us there in the meanwhile.

Ro Giencke - January 28, 2013  




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