Awe, Chaironic Happiness & The Sea

Updated: Feb 2, 2019

I went surfing over the Christmas period in Cornwall (my hometown) with my boyfriend because being in the sea is the most magical experience IMO. I'm currently conducting research at the University of East London entitled "A Positive Psychological Theory of The Sea's Lure" - trying to get to the bottom, scientifically, of what it is about the sea that is SO magical?! That fills you with joy, that gives that elated feeling upon coming out of the sea, which lasts for hours of total rejuvination. One of the theories for this is a term called Chaironic happiness, coined by Dr. Paul Wong. This is the happiness you get when you feel connected to something much larger than yourself - like a connection the universe, to nature, to source, to humanity as a whole. Sitting on a surfboard, with grey skies over head, water temperature at an all time low, you feel something raw. Primal. An unmarked blue expanse stretching before you - how often do you get to feel such a sense of unconfined space? Especially living in London. Cramped tubes, busy offices, busy streets and poky apartments. My friend pointed out recently, you can't simply go for a walk in London. People don't do that. Going for a walk in London is quite stressful! Unless it's in a park, which is usually at least a train ride away for a lot of people.

There are generally three types of happiness: Hedonic (short-lived thrills from things such as new purchases, comfy food and sex) Eudaimonic happiness derived from things that provide you with a consistent state of meaning and Chaironic. As you may be aware, chasing hedonic happiness doesn't bring lasting contentment which is why it's so important to pursue things in forms of delayed gratification: investing in yourself, your body, your development, your relationships. Lazing in bed can feel nice for the hour you do it, but getting up and going to the gym creates results that leave you feeling good everyday that you see that new body in the mirror.

Chaironic happiness is centered around the emotion of awe. When we feel awe, primarily through being exposed to natural environments and natural stimuli, we feel better, we feel more connected to humanity, more positive and less stressed. It's that feeling of 'WOW' of wonder... that feeling that lights us up with excitement inside. Excitement that is both marvel and fear. It's what makes us feel we live in a magical, mysterious place. Like when you see clouds like this:

Where you kinda think 'what the....?' - Yes, THAT feeling. That feeling is magical. If we can feel that more often, we will be happier. I honestly get that feeling when I look at fruit and vegetables and animals and even people. I think wow, that is so amazing. Because when did it become normal? When did it become NORMAL that a magical yellow and green, spiky on the outside, yet deliciously juicy and golden and nutritious on the inside (pineapple if you haven't guessed yet) grew on a tree for us to eat? So perfectly? Being in a constant state of wonder is a great way to be. Call me Alice but I believe this digital age and staring at our phones has stolen our attention away from the really engaging things of this planet that's screaming at us (actually more subtly whispering at us) to just spend more time engaging in natural phenomena. Luckily, it's all around us. If you can't commute to a park or travel to a natural place, the sky is there at any given moment, inviting you to simply look up at it and think - actually no, FEEL - humbled, inspired, liberated, safe (more on the safety side to come in another article) and even meager fruit and humble veg is asking you to look upon it with wonder. When was the last time you actually appreciated how incredible a lemon is? The intense smell, the joyous colour, the unabridged taste - it's so bold and unapologetic and so damn nutritious. It's an invitation to be yourself in all YOUR glory, actually. Nature teaches us so much.

So my aim is to create a water based positive psychological intervention which can help people to reconnect with nature via the wonderful element of the sea. For those who don't really like the sea, I'm able to take you into nature as part of coaching. The power of nature is really underestimated in how it makes you feel better. In so many ways. There's a whole plethora of research on it, trust me, I've read it. If you're further interested, email me and I'll send you a batch of studies in PDF form!

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