Back in my youth, before sunscreen was necessary and high bacteria levels could close a beach, my friends would often start a summer weekend with the enjoyable idea of going to the beach. Eager to engage in the mood enhancing high of a day spent tanning, swimming, throwing a Frisbee, blaring the latest pop music, and lathering up in tanning oils that smelled like Pina Coladas, I’d always answer them with an enthusiastic, “sounds good to me.” My youthful, yet limited, concept of the beach as a place of fun, socializing, and leisure would have stayed with me my whole life, until the neuroscience of wellness (and the preventive measures of skin cancer) changed all that.
Last weekend, after a summer of staycations due to my husbands brave and determined recovery from spinal cord surgery, he surprisingly asked me to join him in a much needed day at the beach before the official end of summer. “Sounds good to me” was my delighted response as we packed up and headed to a noise-protected beach across the border in Canada.
Maybe its the renewed joy in the simple pleasures of life that often accompany an existential crisis like the one we experienced this summer–reminding us of what matters most in life. Or the surprise request from a man whose legs currently move slower and with strains never known before. All I know is that after setting our chairs up in the white sandy beach, lathering up with the necessary 50 proof sunscreen, and leaving all our cares behind, I immediately noticed the power of this special place. The sweet and steady sounds of the rhythmic waves rushing in and rolling out–mesmerizing us into a state of peaceful bliss–was suddenly met by the collective and synchronized release of two very big sighs. Our heart rates dropped, adrenal glands shut down, minds wandered into beautiful states of consciousness, as all of a sudden the health struggles of the summer were carried away by the steady stream of the undulating waves. This is when it occurred to me that this was more than a beach, this was a powerful place for healing the mind, the body, and the spirit.
The power of nature to soothe the mind and spark wholistic healing has been termed Brainwave Entrainment by the field of Auditory Neuroscience in Music and Medicine (audiomedicine.org). Emerging research on how brainwaves can adjust and synchronize to the acoustic frequency and rhythm of a regularly repeating pattern of intermittent sounds can be found in the benefits of listening to a silky smooth voice, soothing music, and pleasant environmental noises. These are the types of sounds that have the power to psycho-biologically enhance our overall feeling of well-being.
All I know is that any beach–free of the disruptive sounds of motor boats, drunken parties, and blaring music–holds the healing power to elicit a natural high. The simple pleasure of being in the rhythm of nature, in timing with the planet, and in oneness with the source of all that is beautiful and uplifting–especially when shared with the ones we love– gives new meaning to the saying, “life’s a beach.” I now knowingly commit to seizing the entrainment moments that sound good to me for my whole life. And with this in mind, I hope you seize the moments to experience the healing sounds of nature too–and that you do it for your whole life.
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