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Mindfulness in motion - The Power of the Ocean

Posted by Robyn Dawson

Guest Post by Kylianne Farrell - Founder of Move for Mental Health and Red Ambassador

It wasn't until my late twenties that I came to realise the true power of the ocean and its ability to positively influence my wellbeing. Growing up in a well known coastal town in Western Australia, so close to her raw beauty and energy almost seems laughable that I lived almost three decades oblivious to her existence.

The time of my life where I had gained freedom and independence as a young adult with the physical capacity to explore and travel, my mind was trapped by mental illness, so many healthy years lost to a different kind of blue space, a dark, helpless and lonely one. This darkness also spoke to me of the dangers and risks of the ocean, the fear of what might happen was debilitating and many opportunities washed by me.

As I approached year 30 of my lifetime, I decided enough was enough. Fear would no longer lead the way, curiosity and adventure would. After leading a multi day group hike through Move For Mental Health, a 124km journey over seven days along some of the most stunning coast line in Australia, the health and wellbeing benefits felt and experienced not only by myself but every other woman that hiked along side me, sparked my curiosity to take a deep dive into why.

What I found particularly around the benefits of movement and blue space, had me jumping into face my fears head on. Taking opportunities to read, learn, experience and grow a journey that ultimately led me to become an amateur SUP athlete using the sport to raise awareness for the impact that movement and nature can have on mental wellbeing.

Lesson One - Re-writing Fear

Fears are not overcome by avoidance, they are overcome by passionate pursuit of change, replacing the barriers that once were debilitating with experiences that reveal what is possible.The ocean is a creative problem solving playground. Bursting with metaphoric lessons that are transferable into the daily challenges of life, if willing to look with curious eyes, we can see perspectives not able to be seen within the somewhat controlled safety of the four walls of a building and the comfort of routine. Using adventurous activities we learn to move towards challenges, manage fear, re-write negative narratives and prove to ourselves what we are capable of.

Fear number one SHARKS, coming face to face with a 15 foot hammerhead on my SUP as it hunted, 20km from the safety of the mainland, is a story I never thought I would tell. That day I learnt that fear can either freeze you staying stuck repeating thoughts, emotions or behaviour that never allow for growth or fuel you forwards towards better.

Lesson Two - Restore and recover your mind

I will let you in on another less known fact about me, I live with ADHD, a brain that is wired to be active, the amount of stimulis that my brain consumes is pretty impressive but it is also exhausting. Being in or on the water is a time where my brain gets a chance to be in an active recovery state. Mindfulness in motion. Ocean based activities like SUP can flick the switch from doing to being. 'Being' in the present moment aware and immersed in sensory movement experience could be termed mindfulness in motion. Mindfulness is a way of being present, focusing on the immediate experience. It is an amazing tool for stress reduction and mental restoration, in fact this has been widely researched and proven.

Lesson Three - Finding strength and energy

The first time I rode a wave, the fear was closely followed by a rush of adrenaline as I stood up, like an unskilful rookie, I got a taste of what I had been missing this whole time I had been sitting on the sidelines. Immersed in the sensory experience, the power of the water pushing me forward, the sound of the crashing wave under my feet, finding a moment of peace and balance as it came together, wiping out and emerging as the wave passed over me with a smile on my face. The chase for the rush, had me paddling back out as fast as I could get back onto my board.

The charge of the water holds amazing sometimes life changing properties, known as negative ions. Water in motion can change our biochemistry, elements that can help us leave the water feeling better than when we entered. Negative ions are produced from shearing forces of water, known as spray electrification or waterfall effect. Studies have shown that negative air ions can increase psychological health, productivity, and overall well-being.