Rita Melissano wants to start a revolution in Long Beach.
But this is a revolution that will make people happy.
“The revolution is for people to be made aware of what a gift they have to live in Long Beach,” she said.
Melissano teaches the ancient discipline of mindfulness, and says she wants to share this philosophy by offering Mindfulness by the Water classes. The classes will be from noon to 1 p.m. on Thursdays and from 3 to 4 p.m. Sundays starting on Dec. 5 at Junipero Beach.
Melissano moved to Long Beach two years ago after a family member took a job here. She had taught at the University of Iowa and left behind a practice and a holistic center.
“I love Long Beach,” Melissano said. “It gives me joy just to be in the city. It is such a vibrant, elegant city. The sun and the blue sky and the water. I’m very attracted to the water. I try to walk on the beach every day if I can.”
A clinical psychologist from the University of Padua in Italy who has also received a Ph.D. in Marriage and Family Therapy from Brigham Young University, Melissano explained that mindfulness is simply the art and science of happiness.
“To be mindful is to fully engage life; to be present to our experiences of life, moment by moment,” she said. “We become more compassionate, more grateful, less judgmental of ourselves and others.”
That combination of art and science results in what Melissano calls a “blue space,” which is an urban design term for visible water. Blue spaces such as harbors, ports, marinas, canals, lakes, ponds and fountains are thought to improve quality of life. Recent studies show that spending time by a blue space enhances mood and reduces stress, making marine and coastal places the happiest locations.
According to PsychologyToday.com, one survey in England found that people made 271 million recreational visits to coastlines and beaches each year. And the most popular activity during these visits wasn’t sunbathing, swimming or fishing. It was walking along the shore.
2018 studies from Hong Kong and Ireland showed that people who regularly visited blue spaces in their free time reported greater well-being, compared to those who didn’t make such visits. They also had a lower risk of depression.
“The revolution is for people to be aware of what a gift they have to live in a blue space,” Melissano said. “The ocean is No. 1 in enhancing the quality of life. The closer to the water, the better for body and mind. Water enhances mood and relaxation. The healing power of water is fantastic. The soothing sound of the waves brings a sense of relaxation.”
Melissano is also writing a book about the city, titled “The City of Joy!” She said a percentage of the profits will be given to the city.
“I have taken so many pictures of Long Beach because every time I am out walking, the city offers me beauty, offers me surprises,” she said. “I’m always in awe when I walk so I had to stop and capture that aspect of beauty that is presented to me. I want the reader to appreciate the visuals because Long Beach is such an artsy city.”
For more information on the mindfulness classes, call Melissano at 309-793-7881, go to satvacenter.com/schedule or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Dress comfortably and bring a towel or mat to sit, walk or lay by the beach. Gratitude donations are welcomed.