#peace, Guest Posts, Hiking, Research, Travel

Peace, Walking and Waterfalls

Guest Post By: Cynthia from I’m Thinking of Retiring

Meet Cynthia

Cynthia lives just north of Toronto. She retired from a fast-paced career as a Fire Chief (one of the few female Fire Chiefs in Canada at the time). In preparing for life beyond work, she created the site I’m Thinking of Retiring to share the immense research she was doing and continues to do to this day.

The main focus of her research centres around current issues, an active lifestyle, travel adventures, and concepts that can help make retirement rewarding and exciting.  Her research has landed her #29 on Feedspots Top 45 Best Canadian Retirement Blogs and #60 on Feedspots Top 100 Retirement Blogs and Websites.  

Below she writes about hiking, peace and being near water — three of my favourite topics!


Now that I’m retired and have left decades of being “on-call” behind me, I walk and hike much farther from home than I used to. Taking a quick walk for “exercise” previously was the sole purpose. While I still walk and hike to gain the benefit of exercise, now that I have the luxury of time, I can walk for hours to de-stress, decompress, and detoxify. No more heart-pounding gallops to my truck halfway through a mellowing walk to respond to emergencies. Now I can walk and hike with soul purpose.

I’ll be upfront with you, the running did me good. However, going from a peaceful state to a hypervigilant tactical response state was not! It’s the cardiac equivalent of being suddenly awakened from a deep sleep by your bedside radio at full blast.

Today, after an uninterrupted peaceful walk …I stay that way. Who knew?!

Walking in Nosara, Costa Rica

My favourite places to walk and hike have always been near water. I just haven’t always been able to do that. Don’t all humans love to be near water in some way? Now that my time is my own, I have been able to take my preference for “walking near water” to the next level.

That “next level” of walking and hiking turns out to be in Nosara, Costa Rica. Once I discovered that in Nosara I could be steps away from the Pacific Ocean or the Malanoche Waterfalls, I was hooked. It has so many options for uninterrupted peaceful walks near water that it’s overwhelming.

I can hear the ocean from my favourite B&B, Casa Vitality. I stay here for many reasons, but to be steps away from miles of open beach is one of the biggest rewards. Nosara and Casa Vitality are also interconnected to several small coastal towns through well-maintained walking trails. On these beautiful trails through the jungle, you can access rivers, streams, and the Malanoche Waterfalls.

I should also tell you that I am an avid reader and love learning the science behind anything. I love anything that feels good for my brain. I am a lifelong learner. So, imagine my delight when I started discovering the science behind why walking near water is good for everyone’s mental state.

I have found no better place to walk near the water, in the presence of breathtaking natural beauty, than Costa Rica. The Rainforest, the Pacific Ocean, and the Malanoche Waterfalls are all in one spectacular location. And to be more specific, the town of Nosara on the Nicoya Peninsula. And to learn that it’s physically good for me, well, win-win!

What Science Says

Science you say? Like real science or mumbo-jumbo jungle voodoo science? No. Real science. Real, actual science has plenty to tell us about our natural affinity for water and why is being near it so peaceful and calming to us.

Is it chemistry? Seventy percent of the earth is covered in water. We ourselves are 70% water. Our hearts and brains hold an even higher concentration of water. And in our hearts and minds, isn’t that where we feel the peacefulness of water most deeply? Science has proven that just being near water releases neurochemicals like endorphins, our own internal high. It doesn’t hurt that the exercise of walking or hiking also releases feel-good hormones.

Is it Aristotelian? “Water seeks its own level,” that is what Aristotle said. The Laws of Nature are such that two bodies of water when linked together will balance out and become level with one another. Does our internal sense of balance work on the same principle?

Is it ionic? We are chock-full of positive and negative ions. It’s what keeps your heart pumping. Your electrolytes are delicately balanced with positive and negative electrons. Water is known to be extremely rich in negative ions. And negative ions help you absorb oxygen, improve serotonin levels, and improve your alertness and concentration. Again, natural balance.

Is it sonic? Do the sound waves created by running water have a healing effect, like ultrasound? Initially, ultrasound was nothing more than a diagnostic tool. Now it’s a standard healing modality in physiotherapy for muscle and deep tissue healing. Further, sound vibrations are used to help entrain your brain into a meditative state. Oceans, waterfalls, and raindrops are the primary sound choices for white noise to help people fall asleep. Is it evolution? From the beginning of time, humans understood that we needed water to survive. We can go without food for weeks but take away the water, and we perish in days. So, the instinct to be near water is hard-baked into our DNA. Or, as Maslow points out, all our higher needs go out the window until we have all our most basic needs taken care of. Water is essential for life; therefore water = safety.

And if all this is baked into us, that’s why the lack of water initiates the stress response called fight or flight until water is found. Equally true then is the fact that the mere sound of water will have the opposite effect. MRI scans have shown that the sound of water initiates the relaxation response in our brains. The relaxation response is what scientists refer to as the feed and breed response.

Inner Peace

I have no real answers to these questions. Whether the inner peace I achieve from walking and hiking near water is spiritual or molecular isn’t really the important part of the equation. Is it? People will always make up their own minds. All I can tell you with any certainty is that I feel a sense of joy after a long, uninterrupted hike near water. That seems to be where it’s easiest for my mind to slip into a calm and peaceful state. Whatever the reasons, I am less judgemental of my own ideas and thoughts and those of others; and that makes me a more creative and harmonious person.

Connect with Cynthia

Thank you to Cynthia for joining us and providing her take on how she finds inner peace. You can connect with Cynthia on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube and her blog site, I’m Thinking of Retiring.

How About You?

I’ve greatly appreciated seeing my WOTY (Peace) reflected through another blogger’s lens. If you have a WOTY, or intention that you have been following for 2022, how has it been going? Please share in the comments or via the Link Up below.

For 2023, Deb, Jo, Sue and I will continue to share a monthly wrap-up post but with a new twist! Stay tuned for more.

Wishing a very Happy Thanksgiving to all of our American friends!

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter

64 thoughts on “Peace, Walking and Waterfalls”

    1. Hi, Jo – Thank you for your positive feedback. I also loved how Cynthia began with the ‘sole purpose’ of walking and then switched to ‘soul purpose’. It was a very clever juxtaposition. I’m off to visit your site now, as well as the linkups. l’m settled in by the fireplace, with a steaming mug of tea, and am greatly looking forward to it. See you there!

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi, Janis – You and me both! I didn’t realize that my blog was listed on both sites until I double-checked the links last night. It was great to see your blog there as well as several others that I follow. I seriously need to pay better attention! :

      Liked by 2 people

  1. Hi Donna, I really enjoyed reading Cynthia’s post and her thoughts on being and walking near water. How interesting and it makes complete sense and I noticed the sole purpose and soul purpose – I get it too!!!

    Congrats to you both and Janis for being listed on the top sites for Canadian Retirement bloggers – very well deserved in my opinion.

    Another great post for our WOTY linkup, you’ve had a wonderful way of dealing with your word Peace, and I’ve so enjoyed all your posts throughout the year. So happy to be co-hosting with you.


    1. Thanks so much, Debbie. I too enjoyed reading Cynthia’s thoughts on the difference in her walking pre- and post- retirement. Even though so many of my local walks tend to lead me to water, I had never previously considered the science behind this pull. I loved your post on the Gift of Sisters. I agree with the Margaret Mead quote that you shared.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This was an interesting read! I agree that being near water is very soothing and a kind of necessity. I didn’t grew up near water, other than smaller lakes in the area, but later when I moved away from home I became fascinated by the sea. I didn’t live near the sea but it wasn’t too far away and I went with friends to the sea sometimes. Now I live at the southern coast of Ireland and have walking distance to the sea. I absolutely love walking down there, and sitting on a cliff watching, and listening to, the waves crash against rocks. It’s the most relaxing experience I know of. So fascinating to read of the science and that even MRI scans reveal that relaxation!


    1. Hi, Susanne – I grew up surrounded by Lake Erie, Lake St. Clair, and the Detroit River. I sadly took living near water for granted. I now live in Central Vancouver Island with over 20 km (12 mi) of sandy ocean beach and frequent low tides. I vow never to take living near water for granted again.
      Sitting on a Irish cliff listening to waves crash sounds very peaceful and picturesque!


  3. Hi Donna – this was a great read from Cynthia – and I agree that nothing beats a lovely long walk – except maybe one near water! I’m so enjoying getting back to walking again after the last year of being so restricted. It reminds me of how good it is to be out in the fresh air and to have time with my thoughts. Congrats to you both on being on Feedspot’s best Retirement blogs list – I’m on a few of their Midlife ones and it feels special to make a Top# list.


    1. Hi, Leanne – I am so glad that your surgery went well and that you are now able to get back to walking again. That is wonderful news!
      Living under a rock (as I tend to do), I knew little (in truth…nothing) about Feedspot. That’s another benefit of connecting with fellow bloggers. We can learn so much. I will now check out those Midlife lists. Congratulations!!


  4. Hi Donna – yes … water has always called … I didn’t yearn in Johannesburg, yet was always happy to get back to England, down to the Cape or other places where the water link was at hand. How fascinating to read Cynthia’s post … she’s obviously a great leader, as she’s lead herself in her work, and now into retirement … congratulations to you all on your listings! Next year … is not going to be easy for so many … but. an appropriate soothing positive word will come into the brain cells in due course. Enjoy your hikes and rambles as the colder times approach – cheers Hilary


    1. Hi, Hilary – Your posts and comments always make me think deeply. Times are difficult for so many. We can often underestimate the tranformative power of a positive word or a simple act of kindness. The potential to provide uplift for each other lies before us.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Might be ‘soothing’ as my WOTY 2023 … who knows … anon anon … the blog keeps me going and learning from other bloggers – like you et al … cheers H

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi, Jill – I know, that’s so cool – right? I (ashamedly) hadn’t given much thought about female fire chiefs. I had not met any before (at least not in my memory). Then right after meeting Cynthia, I saw a poster recruiting Fire Fighters and Fire Chiefs and both images were of females. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Donna, I couldn’t agree more about the healing properties of water, in it, on it, or simply looking at it, I am in my most rested and peaceful state. Thanks for the introduction to Cynthia. I will check out her blog and Insta account shortly.


  6. I really enjoyed this guest post. It was fun to meet Cynthia and fascinating to read about the many aspects of water. So glad Cynthia is now free to do the things she loves to do. A very inspiring read.


  7. Donna, a huge thank you for hosting my post and for all the kind and thoughtful comments from your avid readers. You have clearly inspired a loyal following!


  8. Hi, Donna,
    Thanks to you and Cynthia for a great read. Helen and I just returned from a two-week camping trip on the South Carolina coast. I walked the beach every day, but two (TS Nicole kept us indoors). There is nothing so calming as a stroll on the beach while looking for unique seashells. Love the picture of Cynthia on her yoga mat. This lady has her priorities lined up well. Joe


  9. Hi Donna – thank you for sharing Cynthia’s take on peace. I totally agree with her sentiments that walking by water invokes calm and peacefulness. I find I even crave my morning beach walks if I miss them due to other commitments. I shall be checking Cynthia’s blog out too.


    1. Hi, Janine – I agree that there is nothing quite like a morning walk on the beach. My husband and I just returned from our regular oceanside walk. It truly restores the soul.
      Thank you for checking out Cynthia’s blog.


  10. Donna thank you so much for introducing us to Cynthia. I agree with so much of what she says. My soul absoluteley needs to be walking in nature regularly. I go a bit crazy when it doesn’t happen. Walking by the water is something I really love but only get to do it when on holidays.


    1. Hi, Jennifer – I feel the same about needing daily nature walks. I am fortunate that our house boarders onto a forest and we live a short walk from the ocean. Of course that forest comes with the occasional bear wandering through, and the regular nightly cries of Barnaby our resident owl. 😀


  11. Hi Donna, Thank you for introducing Cynthia to us, and congratulations on being on Feedspot’s best Retirement blogs list. I enjoyed reading this post and your approach to Peace from another blogger’s perspectives. Two things came to my mind: 1) I recently read articles about the health benefits of ‘Blue spaces’ (lakes, rivers, oceans…) which could be even more beneficial than green ones. I truly appreciate being close to Lake Ontario 2) Fond memories of the wide, sandy beaches in Costa Rica. My blog banner image is from Playa Grande in Costa Rica. Have a great weekend!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi, Natalie – The research that you came across about the importance of ‘blue spaces’ sounds very interesting. I will take a look for it. I feel incredibly fortunate to live right beside both green and blue spaces. On most of my walks I encounter both.
      That is cool that your banner image is from Playa Grande. I will hop back to your site and take a closer look at it!

      Liked by 1 person

  12. What a lovely read Donna, and thank you for introducing Cynthia. I know I am always better for being near water. I can seek the noise and roughness of the ocean to help me be energised. I have always loved my ability to find water; ocean, lake, creek, river, and to engage with it. I can view it, photograph it, be amazed by it, and feel the joy! It’s been good for my healing after cancer to be able to walk at the beach or near the lake to ‘feel’ the benefits of getting into a space much bigger than my mind!! Thank you for the link up. Denyse.


    1. Hi, Denyse – Thank you for your very insightful comment. You are right about oceans being energising, When I am walking near one, I usually feel like dancing (you’ll be pleased to know that I usually am able to restrain myself….usually)! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Hi Donna great to read Cynthia’s story and I was interested to see how she transitioned from a ‘full on’ career to retirement. I have always enjoyed the soothing nature of the ocean and being in nature. I also found the science behind the effect of water on our mental state. Great WOTY post and Peace has certainly been a great choice for your WOTY in 2022 xx


    1. Thanks so much, Sue. I greatly enjoyed learning more about Cynthia’s story as well.
      It is amazing just how the right WOTY finds each of us. As much as I have been resisting going with a WOTY for next year, a single word keeps forming in my brain. I may just keep it in my pocket as a silent WOTY and see what happens.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Thank you, Donna, for introducing me to Cynthia. I do love being near water, and it’s interesting to think about the possible “whys” of that. I will pop over to Cynthia’s blog now and do some exploring!


  15. I’ll join others in thanking you for introducing Cynthia. Walking & water rate high in my world. There are two old Nike ads that I have posted in my sight range:
    Walking isn’t just good for your heart. It’s good for your soul.

    I believe you can walk away from your problems. I believe the only person worth comparing myself to is me. I believe any dog under 10 pounds isn’t a dog.

    My apologies to anyone with lap dogs. And perhaps the first line should read – I believe you can walk away your problems. There are so many times when I’ve thought – if I could just go for a walk, I’d feel better.


    1. Hi, Mona – Those are good words to live by — except for maybe the dog part. 😀 I like your change of the first line about walking away our problem (as opposed to walking away from them). Even if I have to drag myself out, a walk almost always makes me feel better! I always love hearing from you.


  16. How lovely to find a kindred spirit, Donna! You know I spent many years being around water but the wind was what tickled our ears. I miss walking or being on the beach but hiking in the woods is really my thing. Nice to meet you Cynthia–like you I retired and dedicate more time to walking!


  17. I like to walk near water but it is a rarity considering where I live. Doing so is peaceful, almost like putting yourself into a zen state by accident. I’d ENJOY [my WOTY] it no doubt.

    It’s interesting how you interpret Aristotle’s “Water seeks its own level” quote. As a girl that was said by my elders when they wanted to put someone down, someone they felt was inferior to them, and they looked down on from higher water.


    1. Hi, Ally – Your comment prompted me to Google the meaning behind “water seeks its own level”. Four interpretations immediately popped up. 1) The surface of water placed in a single container (a glass or a bathtub or a lake) will remain at the same level relative to Earth on both sides of the container. Adding water to one side will only make the entire level uniformly rise; there can never be one section of the glass or tub or lake that is at a higher elevation than another section.2) So the idiom generally is water seeks its own level, which means people gravitate toward like-minded people. 3) You dont know the value of something until its taken away from you. 4) a metaphor for how things equalize in society. Another fascinating trip down Google’s Rabbit Holes! 😀
      Wishing you lots to enjoy in the weeks ahead!

      Liked by 1 person

  18. Hi Donna and Cynthia – I enjoyed this post very much. I love being near the water and now I understand better why that’s so. Whenever we visit the shore, I immediately feel relaxed. I loved reading about the science behind these feelings. Thanks for sharing it all!


  19. Dear Donna and Cynthia — I very much appreciate the art, science and self-knowledge offered in this post. (And I made a note of Casa Vitality B&B!) I’ve been able to nourish and heal myself near marshes and the ocean since my retirement. I’ve found that even a walk by our neighborhood creek makes a difference. I appreciate the reminder and encouragement!


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