A Peek Into My Blue Mind
Three of the many reasons why my "backyard" is my cozy happy place...
As a toddler, my parents would take me to the beach and let me roam the shores in nothing but a diaper. I think that was when I fell in love with water and it is no surprise that even as an adult, my love hasn't waned. Ironically, I hate drinking it, but I love being in and around it. Some of my fondest memories from my childhood and young adulthood years include the beaches in my hometown. I often sought comfort in the familiar smells of the salty sea air as well as the therapeutic sounds of the waves crashing on the shore. This was my happy place. When I decided to leave my country and explore others, a criterion of finding housing was that it had to be close to a body of water, so that I could not only channel memories of my earlier days but also have a peaceful energy source a stone's throw away.
I currently live in a studio apartment with my kitten, Grey Finn. Though I consider it to be my cozy safe haven, sometimes there is a need to escape to clear my mind and get some fresh air. Due to the pandemic and working from home, that feeling comes along more frequently since the line between my personal and professional lives is now blurred. I do not have a balcony so the next best thing is the shared "backyard" of my apartment complex as it overlooks the gorge waterway. Despite being close to a fairly busy bridge, I find that all I need to make it an outdoor cozy and tranquil spot is a bulky sweater, a book or journal and a cup of hot chocolate. I won't take credit for creating this space as that was all my landlord. However, to some tenants, this is a place to chat and drink with friends. But, for an aquaphile like me, it is a place meant for peaceful solitude.
Come take a walk with me along the boardwalk and let me tell you three of the reasons why I love this breathtakingly beautiful spot.
1. Induces My Creativity
Whether I'm working on my next Vocal article or an assignment, I sometimes find myself experiencing writer's block. I will sit at my laptop for hours on end and nothing good will come to mind. My brain then protests from being put into overdrive and instead of producing results, it hinders my progress. Whenever this happens, I head to the boardwalk by the gorge, close my eyes and disengage from all specific mental tasks. This activates my default mode network and in no time my "eureka" moments come along and the ideas start to flow. Though it can be tempting to start typing away in the moment, I am sure to abstain until I return to my safe haven so that I can stay connected to my thoughts. I limit myself to writing lengthy pieces by the water only if they are journal entries that facilitate much needed self-reflection. Instead, I jot down all the superb ideas that come to mind and build on them later on. To some this may seem like an unrealistic process but trust me, don't knock it until you try it!
2. Improves My Mood
“I wondered whether water is a mirror for our darker emotions as much as it is an engine for our happiness. Water quiets all the noise, all the distractions, and connects you to your own thoughts.”
― Wallace J. Nichols
Whenever I find myself in a red state, the quickest and most effective way to shift to a blue state is to sit by the gorge and take in its associated sights, sounds and smells. Now I should clarify that I am not referring to red and blue political states but rather states of mind. A red state of mind is one of constant anxiety, overstimulation, stress and overconnectedness. It's been almost a year since we've been in self-isolation or have had to limit our interactions with our friends and loved ones. The negative feelings that come along with this experience can be quite overwhelming. At times, I plunge myself deep into these negative thoughts as when I am alone by the water, it surely isn't easy to escape these thoughts. However, I meditate if I need to and shift my focus to the water to alleviate my stress and transition to my "blue mind". Your blue mind can be achieved simply by being close to water (even in your shower) which leads to a state of calmness, relaxation and lowered heart rate.
3. Gives Me A Chance To Unplug
In a world where our eyes are constantly glued to our phones it can often be difficult to unplug. I admit, I am guilty of scrolling through Instagram at intervals throughout my day so I can laugh at memes and digitally people-watch. When I'm not doing that, I spend a huge portion of my day either working at my computer or curled up in bed watching Netflix. Because of this, some days I feel my brain cells depleting and I know I have to throw a wrench into my routine in order to find some balance. If not, then the screen fatigue takes a toll on my mental health which in turn not only affects my mood but also my productivity. On these days when my mental heatlh seems to take a turn for the worst, I grab my journal and my favourite zebra sarasa gel pen and engage in a self-reflection writing activity to ground myself and refocus on my life beyond the screens.
Wallace J. Nichols wrote an interesting book called Blue Mind: The Surprising Science That Shows How Being Near, In, On, or Under Water Can Make You Happier, Healthier, More Connected, and Better at What You Do. The title is a mouthful, I know. However, don't let that the deter you. This book is based on the health benefits of being around water and it also assesses exactly why water makes us happy. Most of us are aware of the physical health benefits of drinking water such as clear skin or simply staying hydrated. However, if you've ever wondered about the cognitive benefits as well, give this book a read and perhaps you'll be able to use your newfound knowledge to help you find peace in the same way I do. Don't hesitate to let the gentle rhythm of the water calm your spirit and set your soul free.