Drawn to the Ocean and Why it may Save you from Anxiety and Depression

Photo by Autumn Studio on Unsplash

Growing up 3 blocks from Lake Erie was the best time of my life and many days were spent at the beach. It’s as if I craved the sand and water but didn’t realize how much I craved it until we moved to Pennsylvania. The only body of water near me is the Allegheny River which isn’t the same (yes, it’s calming to a certain degree) but can never match the energy of Lake Erie or the Ocean, large bodies of water.

I have been experiencing depression with an increase in panic attacks over the last 6 months or so, which I wrote about in my previous article. I used to find a way to get through winter SAD by planning a vacation to Myrtle beach each year, just planning and visualizing the Ocean helped in some small way to muster through winter SAD- Depression caused from a lack of sunshine. But, my depression has lasted beyond winter and I need to figure out why because, quite frankly it’s debilitating and sucks.

Image courtesy of https://www.condo-world.com/ Large Yellow Building, Maisons Sur Mer, Myrtle Beach, SC , where we stayed each year

My girlfriend and I took our daughters to Myrtle beach every spring from 1998–2006. I took it upon myself to find our Condo and plan our road trip each year. This kept my mind busy with happy thoughts. There was a light at the end of the tunnel when traveling to the warm Ocean was only months away.

It was a long drive, almost 14 hours but always a fun filled drive. I will never forget our first trip, we headed out before Memorial Day and we were clueless when it came to possible events that took place in Myrtle beach during the holiday.

Having a friend along for the drive makes the drive go by faster and the laughter is contagious along the way. The best part of the trip, getting within a half hour or so from our destination- we could see the Ocean, smell it and FEEL it. My friend and I are both Lake Erie babies, so the water means a lot to both of us.

When we were on the last stretch of our first trip to Myrtle beach, we both shouted, “Only 20 more miles to our Condo,” within seconds of saying those words we found ourselves stuck in a traffic jam. We hit Hwy 17 S about 4:30 pm that day and thought, well… we are only 20 miles, we can do this! We were surrounded by motorcycles and thought this was a norm when hitting Myrtle beach. We had no idea it was Biker Fest Weekend.

We were amused for the first few hours while stuck in traffic but that grew old.

Our girls who were 9 years and 12 years old at the time were cracking up when they saw a gals with thongs riding on the back of bikes. The rap music which shook my mini-van was also invigorating for a while until it became annoying. But hey, we were only 15 miles from our Condo after an hour of traveling on Hwy 17, so we kept our focus on the Ocean. At some point I became so bored, almost giddy from driving in stop and go traffic for over 2 hours, I decided to play my version of cool music and blast it. I put on the Backstreet Boys and the girls were begging me to turn it off after I opened my windows to blare my music. My girlfriend and I were dying from laughter while the girls were cringing in the back seat.

We finally arrive at our condo at 9:40 pm, who would have thought? We missed an entire first afternoon on the beach. We made it to the condo while driving in congested traffic for 5 hours without a bathroom stop, come on… that’s amazing for 2 women and 2 younger girls, right?!!

Once we hit the beach the next morning, I felt all my troubles dissipate. I hadn’t felt that sense of calm in years. I just figured that I felt completely stress free because I was on vacation but there was much more to it as I would learn over the years and continue to learn.

My friend and I repeated our trips yearly until our girls graduated from high school. I made a few trips on my own when she was unable to go. Winter didn’t seem so bad when I knew my reward at the end of winter was hitting the Ocean!

With the exception of my trips to Colorado to visit my son and family, every other vacation was Ocean bound. I love Colorado and the mountains but it doesn’t do the same thing for my mind that the Ocean does. It’s as if the Ocean’s energy envelops me with positive energy. My husband sent me an article privately tonight and wrote above the article, “So I found out why you miss the beach ?!”

I’ve only visited the Ocean 2 times since 2008 and I’ve been telling my husband I have a need to be near the ocean like you have a need to be deep within the forest. We both find a sense of calm when we are within our elements.

This article answered a lot of questions for me and enlightened me. I had tears while reading it because just when I feel he isn’t paying attention or my illness is causing him to feel completely frustrated with me, he finds a way to show he understands, maybe better than I do myself.

The name of the article was, “How the Beach Benefits your Brain According to Science,” and this paragraph really stood out:

“These slow, whooshing noises are the sounds of non-threats, which is why they work to calm people,” says Orfeu Buxton, an associate professor of biobehavioral health at Pennsylvania State University. “It’s like they’re saying: “Don’t worry, don’t worry, don’t worry.” The sound of waves can help you achieve a meditative state, which is proven to heal and strengthen your brain.”

Maybe the “whooshing noises” bring back memories we held but weren’t aware we did, memories of being rocked when we were infants? I have to agree with the article, the sound of the waves do tend to put one into a meditative state of mind, I can attest to that. I would stay up late every night and get my last walk on the beach, then head to our balcony to listen to the waves until I was ready to go to sleep.

It may be time to hit the reset button and head back to the beach again. I do crave it and I crave it in ways that some people may never understand. It’s the colors of the ocean, the sunrises, the sunsets and the magnificent sounds of the waves crashing when they hit shore, the birds, watching dolphins swim or jump and the pure energy I feel through out my body while walking through the sand barefoot.

I was at an all time low a few nights ago when I wrote my last article. Tonight, I feel renewed, I am on a mission again. I need to go back to my roots, to the place that renews my mental and physical energy, I need more sunlight. I don’t just want to live, I want to enjoy life with a vigor… I want to make sure I never fully lose the child within.

When anxious, uneasy and bad thoughts come, I go to the sea, and the sea drowns them out with its great wide sounds, cleanses me with its noise, and imposes a rhythm upon everything in me that is bewildered and confused. — Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters of Rainer Maria Rilke, 1892–1910