I spent a couple of days by the sea earlier this week. It was heaven to be somewhere else for a couple of days after having not been able to do it for a while!
Being next to water, especially the sea, I find immensely calming; and there are good reasons for that. There have been studies that show that the sound of running water triggers the release of neurotransmitters in our brains that reduce anxiety and promote feelings of calm.
Being near water, or out in nature in general really, also tends to encourage us to put down our phones, slow our running minds and look outwards. We see details we wouldn’t necessarily notice otherwise. It gives us a chance to reconnect and remember that we are a part of nature, not an entity that is separate from it. (I made a short video while I was there explaining more, check it out here)
I also find the ocean especially good for inspiring a sense of awe. Something that can be lacking in day-to-day life if we don’t take the time to cultivate it. I find that the tops of mountains or fells is great for this too. Anywhere that you can see for a long way and be reminded how small you are in comparison to the world. For me, this puts my problems into perspective. Left unchecked, my thoughts can make it seems like even tiny things are huge, so the wide vistas really help.
Watching the tide come in and out was really my main entertainment for a couple of days. What really struck me was the way that you just had to work with it. There was really no point being upset or annoyed if the tide was in and you wanted to walk on the sand. It’s completely out of our hands – we just had to wait. Trying to control the tide would be madness.
I think we can all accept that trying to control the tide would be bonkers. Can you imagine how stressful that would be? Yet there are things in our lives that are just as much beyond our control as the tides, but we still drive ourselves mad trying to bend them to our will.
The only thing we truly have any control over is our own thoughts and our own actions. That’s it.
Our actions may be able to have influence over events, situations or other people but we really cannot control them. Trying to do so is one of the main causes of anxiety.
Next time you’re feeling stressed and anxious, give yourself a minute and reflect. What can you actually control here and what is like the tide?
If you’re trying to control the tide, let it be. All you can do is adjust your actions to work with it or your thoughts and your story about what it means to/about you.