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The Meaning Of Life, Our Search For Joy... ...and other things to think about while surfing

07/07/2013 07:24PM ● Published by Nancy Babin

Do you ever find that peace and happiness are eluding you?  It happens to all of us at one time or another.  The pursuit of joy is so profound… so overwhelming… maybe even unattainable in and of itself.  Perhaps it’s time to get back to the basics first:  Are you sleeping well? Eating okay? Exercise a bit?  Are you doing anything that brings joy into your life?  

Often, we find if the basics are neglected, bigger problems can surface.  And, if we don’t tend to the basics, the likelihood of improving upon that larger presenting concern becomes significantly undermined.

The first thing to do is to reel in the variables you can develop excellent control over. Most of us can choose when to sleep, what to eat, how to exercise, and what to do that brings us joy.

In everyday life, sleep, diet, and exercise are fairly common topics. You will find plenty of helpful advice from friends and family.  However, when we consider what brings us joy, the conversation frequently pauses. Difficulty in answering this question can come from a few possible sources. Someone might have no idea what brings them joy. They may have forgotten what activities were once joyful. Or, they may be convinced they can’t experience joy anymore because of any number of reasons, usually mistakenly attributed to things beyond their control. Regardless, life without joy can be quite boring. For many, it is painful. For some, tragically, a life without joy may not even be worth living.

So, what to do about this joy problem? Many of the quick fixes such as media distractions, digital entertainment, relationships, alcohol, and drugs do work initially but are short-lived, expensive, and come with undesirable side effects. Sometimes we have to start from scratch to discover a joyful activity. 

The first place to look is for anything that is low- or no-cost, readily available, and generally health promoting. Ideally, a joy-inspiring activity is all these things and also contributes to “the basics.”  That is, the activity also improves sleep, appetite, and physical health. Altogether, the joyful activity improves mental health. And, quite importantly, this health improvement can often be achieved even when other unfortunate external variables remain unchanged.

Here On the Coast, we are very fortunate to have many activities that fit these health-promoting criteria. My personal all-time favorite joy-inspiring activity on the coast is surfing.  So, how does surfing fare with these criteria?

Cheap to get started.  Surfing generally requires a one-time low cost to buy a used surfboard and then enjoy years of use. Or, spend what you can and collect a few boards. Even if you do create a quiver of boards, compared to most other sports, surfing is remarkably inexpensive. (It’s always free to body surf!)

Readily available.  There’s always water on the coast! Waves can be intermittent, but paddling flat water can be enjoyable and surfing small waves can actually be more challenging and playful. When you are ready, the quest for cleaner, bigger, more powerful surf can keep you challenged and hungry for more. (Though eventually, most surfers end up simply craving a clean wave with just enough power and size to ride and then enjoy a good laugh in the water with friends.)

Health promoting.  This physical activity is also invigorating and inspiring. After a session of surfing, most people enjoy a healthy appetite, a smile on their face, a spring in their step, and finally, a good night’s sleep. Most long-time surfers enjoy a healthy appreciation for life, a pleasant demeanor, and a generally positive attitude.

So, must we all become surfers to find joy?  Of course not. There is no universally perfect sport or joy-producing activity. Which activity you try is entirely up to you. I have seen the same joy in people’s eyes when they talk about their love of photography, music, dance, volunteering, even knitting. In fact, itʼs healthy to have a few favorites to choose from. Fortunately for us, the Emerald Coast offers plenty of inexpensive, healthy, joyful activities. This magazine is full of them. So, make it a point to try a few activities that pique your interest, and enjoy the search!

If you are searching for healthy activities for your kids, be sure to check out the upcoming Surfrider Foundation - Kidʼs Surf Classic July 20th in Destin.  Check out for more info.  I will be busy on the beach helping kids into a few waves and sharing the joy!

P.S. The “meaning of life” title was clearly a cheap psychological ploy to encourage you to read this. I do hope you discover peace, happiness, and joy. Enjoy the journey, and be sure to share what you learn along the way!

About the Author

Mike Sturdivant is a Licensed Psychotherapist and has been
in private practice with the Destin Counseling Center for
over 15 years. He provides consultation for local schools
and companies. Mike also serves as Chairman of the local
Surfrider Foundation chapter and volunteers for many other
local groups. He enjoys teaching surfing lessons, crafting his
own skateboards, and mostly enjoying coastal living with his
wife and son.
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julyaugust 2013 issue

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