It is a typical autumn morning in Brighton, England. I stand on the iconic pier and look out to grey skies blurring into a grey sea. Through the heavy rain I struggle to make out the vintage fun-fair for which this town is famed. Instead, I train my camera on the sea, following some kayaks as they paddle below the pier. Through the lens I watch a surfer fight through the rain. Wave after wave. As I zoom he comes into sharp focus, stoic and determined. I can’t help but wonder: what draws people to the ocean on a miserable day like today?
After spending some time in Brighton, I found my answer.
Imagine your dream beach. For me, the words conjure images of a tropical paradise - all palm trees, white sand and blues skies. Even in summer, Brighton is far from this ideal. In autumn, it is more like that song- all the leaves are brown and the sky is grey. The locals, however, are far from California dreaming. Those I speak with are happy to be a part of this thriving seaside community of surfers, artists and adventurers. Many have swapped London’s overpriced housing market for Brighton’s beach vibes and creative scene.
The Brighton community is testament to the fact that a beach lifestyle is more of an approach to life than a location. On that rainy morning at the pier I witnessed what a commitment to this lifestyle really means. A beach lifestyle is about doing what you love and prioritizing your happiness, regardless of the weather.
The Brighton locals can teach us how to keep the summer's high up once the temperature drops.
Here are three lessons - souvenirs if you will - that I took away from my autumn in Brighton.
1.) Practice Mindfulness
During summer we tend to draw our energy from our environment. We soak up the sunshine through our bare skin and immerse ourselves in saltwater. We find we can easily rise early for a sunrise surf or party late into a summer’s night.
Winter is a different story. We all know the feeling of waking up to the alarm when it is still dark outside. To find the same kind of energy, we have to look within ourselves. Practicing mindfulness could be the best way to do this. You don’t have to meditate or do yoga to be mindful, though both definitely help. It could be as simple as taking the time to really taste and enjoy your food.
Instead of relying on our surroundings for that energy, being mindful helps us to key into our bodies’ inner spark. There is a confidence that comes with drawing strength from yourself, rather than the places and people around you. Channelling that confidence could be the key to keeping energized throughout the changing seasons.
2.) Make Time To Do Nothing
Summer days offer up an opportunity to be lazy without feeling guilty. Think afternoons spent lying on hot sand and long evenings sipping cool drinks. This is far from wasted time. In fact, periods of rest and even boredom are actually the ideal conditions for creativity to thrive. Researchers have found that being bored actually sends signals to the mind that you’re in need of fresh ideas and spurs creative thinking.
In Brighton, life moves at a slower pace than other cities. Do as the locals do and embrace this rhythm.
3.) Find Balance
Life is all about balance. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction and there is joy in this truth. There is happiness in dancing in heels on Saturday night and barefoot yoga on Sunday morning. Life is better when we are bold enough to seek adventures faraway, yet patient enough to find peace within ourselves.
In winter it is important to keep a routine. A routine keeps us on track when mulled wine feels like a better idea than working out. Yet the opposite is also true. Spontaneity is energizing. Seek a balance between the two. This could be the key to being happy throughout the seasons and even the years.
There’s a surf movie about Brighton with the telling title “NOT CALIFORNIA”. The locals know that Brighton is not what you picture when you dream up your perfect beach. Yet they are proud of this seaside hub of creativity and surf culture. For good reason. Following in their wake, we really might find a way to make the best part of summer, the feeling, last forever.