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Sand play boasts a huge range of benefits, from encouraging creativity to improving fine motor skills. But there is one particular benefit that arguably outweighs all of the others – reducing feelings of anxiety and stress and maintaining a sense of calm. In the hectic world we inhabit today, it’s definitely worth exploring how this works, especially in the current climate. The best news is that it’s not just for children. Grown-ups can reap the benefits too.
Mindfulness is the practice of being present in the moment, taking the time to notice and consciously experience any sensations that might come from your surroundings. The focus on the here and now helps you appreciate what you feel and can control, removing stressful thoughts and feelings.
Sand play is a similarly focused activity. It requires you to concentrate on what you are doing and feeling, rather than on any significant tasks, the past or the future. The sensation of sand falling through your fingers, or being between your toes brings you to the present moment and calms the mind, evaporating away any of your worries or troubling thoughts.
Also referred to as Earthing, grounding is the act of connecting with nature. Those who practice grounding believe they can use the Earth’s subtle electrical charge to improve both their physical and emotional well-being. It is thought that a connection with the Earth balances out the positive electrons in our bodies with the negative charge of the ground, leaving us feeling a sense of calm. Even if it that does sound a little far-fetched, being outside in nature will always make you feel better, and sand play encourages all of us to get out in the sunshine and reconnect with the Earth, away from the lure of modern-day technology and social media.
Wherever you play with sand, it becomes your safe space. You are free to create whatever you choose in whichever way you want to, which provides a judgement free sanctuary in which you can express yourself. The feeling of safety and lack of limitation can contribute to a sense of calm, thereby reducing feelings of anxiety and stress. You never know, you might just create something wonderful too.
So many aspects of life are out of our control, which can make you feel helpless or even overwhelmed. But if you can find small things to control, you can keep some of those feelings of anxiety at bay. Perhaps more important than ever at the moment, sand play provides you with that sense of control. You are free to make choices and have the benefit of seeing instant results, which helps you to feel in control of your environment. In turn, this can reduce overwhelming feelings of anxiety and contribute to a sense of calm.
Through sand play, you are likely to experience a range of sensations. You might feel light and fluffy sand running through your fingers or break the sunbaked crust of dry sand with your feet. Even the coolness of deep, damp sand can be a pleasant experience given the right circumstances. When you focus on the physical and soothing sensations of touching sand, your attention is concentrated on that moment, reducing your feelings of anxiety. Also, it will stimulate nerve endings, which don’t often feel those sensations in your regular daily routine. This can lead to your body creating more of its natural painkiller, physically healing you as well as supporting your emotional well-being.
Sand play is creative play and awakens our inner artist. One study found that 45 minutes of creativity significantly reduces the production of cortisol (otherwise known as the stress hormone) in our system and therefore lessens feelings of stress. Even better, creative activities have the same effect regardless of experience or talent, which means there’s no excuse not to give sand play a go.
While there are many benefits to sand play, emotional well-being is a delicate balance in our chaotic world. When playing with sand, you have the opportunity to get creative, spend time in nature and mindfully focus on something other than the things that are stressing you out. So why don’t you get outside with your little ones the next time they spend time in their sandpit and enjoy the positive benefits of playing with sand too?