I recently started clogging my friends Instagram stories with photos of myself at the beach.
Usually only one a day but I am very aware that, just like nobody is particularly interested in what I had for lunch they are similarly disinterested in the fact that today, I swam in the ocean for the eleventh day in a row or that I intend to do it for the next 79 days of summer.
I imagine there is even less interest in knowing that today, it was a little cold and windier than I would have liked.
I’m under no illusion that people are scrolling through their feeds with intense interest in my beach going habits or the conditions at the beach or anything about what I am doing in fact. Anyone that knows me, knows that this is not why I am posting the photos.
Ultimately, I post the photos to keep myself accountable. Simple.
Publicly declaring that you are going to do something for 90 consecutive days is a great way to make sure it happens. Because nothing keeps you on track like the thought of being publicly humiliated by your own lack of discipline.
So on December 1, I set myself a goal to swim in the ocean every day of summer. Rain, hail or shine I have committed to completely immerse myself in the ocean at least once each day from December 1 – February 28. My Instagram posts are a log of this.
For me, the beach has always been my happy place. When times are tough, more time by the ocean has always helped. I head to the ocean to soothe my spirit and ground my mind though I rarely do it with much consistency. It’s more a ‘putting out fires’ or ‘whenever I have the time’ approach. I do know for a fact though, that time spent near, or in the ocean, helps me feel calm and balanced.
It’s not just me that thinks this either. Science agrees. Research shows that simply living near the ocean can improve your overall health and wellbeing. More specifically, the sound of the ocean can induce a meditative state while the colour blue has a calming effect on the nervous system. The negative ions in the ocean air actually help calm your brain and have even been shown to have a pronounced anti-depressant effect. Additionally, when we walk barefoot in the sand we experience something called grounding. Grounding electrically reconnects us to the earth and has been shown to have a positive physiological effect on both nervous and cardio - vascular systems in the body. Salt water therapy is actually a thing. Science.
2021 has been a challenging year for me. It has been for a lot of us. I’m not in the business of comparing hardship. If you found it hard. It was. It’s all valid. For me, there has been a lot of unexpected change, disappointment and grief and I am in the middle of enormous transformational growth ( therapist code for big, overwhelming, emotional pain) It’s been rough and not much fun but I know the only way out, is through and as always, I’m in a hurry. I’m in a hurry to feel good again. To see the good in people again. I’m in a hurry to be free from obsessive thinking and self-doubt. I’m in a hurry to want to be exactly where I am without wishing things were different. I’m in a hurry to be free. I’m in a hurry to heal. I’ve always been in a hurry. It’s just who I am. In reality however, you can’t hurry healing. I know this and I tell my clients every day. If you really want to heal well, you can’t skimp on the process, that includes feeling it ALL and It really does take as long as it takes. You can however be active in moving through the pain and this is where the swims come in.
Beside the scientific benefits from the ocean that I mentioned before, there are other benefits of making a daily commitment to yourself. Doing this (whatever the commitment), rebuilds trust in yourself. Making a commitment to yourself that is good for you says “I’m worth this” and “I am important to me”. The time I take out of my day to meet my own needs and to honour a promise I have made to myself, reinforces my own sense of self-worth and trust in my ability to meet my own needs. When grief and depressive thoughts say “I can’t”, my actions say “I can” and so I do.
When I do, I feel like I can. When I don’t, I feel like I can’t. And on it goes. Action builds confidence.
Every day I get in the ocean I remind myself I am a capable, independent woman who is able to go through hard things and STILL enjoy life. I rely on myself to get there. To make it happen. I honour my own commitment and as such I am rebuilding confidence in myself. Every day I get out of that swim. I remember me. I smile. Today, I laughed. I felt so good. I literally laughed out loud. There really is something very powerful about saying you are going to do something and then just doing it. Making it happen. I am learning to trust myself again.
Immersing myself in the ocean each day is part of my healing process. It is what I have prescribed for the physical, emotional and spiritual recovery of 2021 and so far it’s working. Two swims forward and one swim back but overall there is a shift.
As an added and unexpected bonus I have begun receiving messages of support and encouragement from people on Instagram. Yesterday, I posted a photo sitting by the ocean captioned #idrathernot. Within minutes, I had half a dozen messages saying “get in the water!” So it appears, there actually are a few people who care about my daily swims. More so, I am reminded that there are more than a few people who care about me and wish me well. And that is powerful because whatever you are healing from, it more than likely at times feels intensely lonely. A little message of support can make a big impact. So thank you.
Maybe you don’t feel the need to swim in the ocean every day but if you are feeling a little flat or disconnected from yourself I encourage you to make a commitment to yourself too. Maybe it’s something as simple as drinking a glass of water before you have a coffee. Or waking up half an hour earlier to walk by the river. Perhaps it’s just finishing work at the time you are meant to rather than working overtime each day. Whatever it is, it should remind you that you are worth something more than the crumbs you feed yourself, the minimal attention you pay to yourself or the limited rest you give yourself. Keep a promise you make to yourself and watch how your confidence begins to build.