We all love to holiday near water but have you ever wondered why we are so drawn to the shoreline?
Not only is the coast a stunning playground that we associate with relaxation and time off, but increasing scientific evidence proves that being by the sea has tangible health benefits for the body and mind.
The dictionary definition of blue health is the idea that being near or on water is good for physical and mental health.
This is obvious for people who like being in or near the sea. Ask the surfers, coastal artists, wild swimmers and beachcombers. They will confirm what a vital ingredient the ocean is in their lives. There is also growing scientific evidence to show that the benefits of the big blue extend to anyone who spends time by the sea.
Research is increasingly highlighting the ocean as a therapeutic environment, capturing the human imagination and interrupting the momentum of daily life with its inspiring rhythms, sounds and scents.
What is Blue Mind?
The concept of blue mind takes the science a little further into the profound benefits the sea, as well as lakes, rivers and natural pools, has on our wellbeing and mental health.
Positive benefits of a trip to the sea
Whether you head to coastal paths, lay on your beach towel or plunge into the ocean, being in and beside the sea has a huge influence over our physical and emotional state. It improves our health and leaves us feeling elated. From enhancing our sleep to lowering stress levels, there are significant reasons why close proximity to the ocean boosts our emotional and physical health.
Just breathing in the sea air helps lift your mood, as negatively charged ions help to absorb oxygen and balance serotonin levels in the brain. If you venture into the ocean, it stimulates the vagus nerve, calms our fight-or-flight response and releases dopamine, the happy hormone, in considerable amounts. It is small wonder that frolicking in the waves leaves us feeling less stressed, more alert and better equipped to deal with everyday demands.
Watching waves reduces stress levels
Jumping in the surf is not the only way to experience the calming effect of the waves. Simply watching the ocean brings us back into the moment, distracting us from internal and negative thoughts as our focus is drawn to the natural beauty of our surroundings. This mindfulness decreases stress and snaps us into a different, more positive mindset.
Spending time near water gives us a powerful mental health boost.
We have long known that connecting with nature in green spaces is great for our mental health. Now fresh research is showing that time near water – by the coast, rivers and even fountains in the park – is even more restorative
A day at the beach brings joy to all of us. Those who love to go on holiday by oceans, lakes, and even swimming pools, can attest to the water’s power to inspire relaxation and promote personal rejuvenation. The sea, rivers, lakes, streams – as soon as we can, we’re sprinting towards the nearest water source we can find, especially during the summer heat. Why? Because it has the ability to flick a switch inside that takes us from chaotic to calm.
Spending time in and by oceans, rivers, lakes, waterfalls and fountains can help ward off depression and anxiety created by technology. Almost all of the senses are engaged – sight, smell, hearing, and touch, and this physical immersion in reality makes us feel better. We often imagine we are unable to exist without our phones – even for a moment. Spending too much time inside, glued to screens, consuming news and entertainment, can lead to lethargy, lack of motivation, and dissatisfaction. Involving ourselves in or near water improves moods and raises our spirits.
Whether it is a bracing sea breeze, the gentle lapping of waves or the glint of sunshine on a rippling surface, there is something deeply restorative about being in or near water. The Victorians knew this, prescribing sea air as a treatment for melancholy. So did the French, who, for centuries, sent people with ailments to natural springs.
We recognise the benefits of being out in nature more keenly than ever these days. Hundreds of studies that catalogue the positive effects are being translated into health policies and urban redevelopment projects that aim to nudge people into the great outdoors and, in doing so, alleviate many of the health burdens that accompany modern life.
The idea that nature can give us a mental pick-me-up is nothing new. The Japanese practice of shinrin-yoku, or ‘forest bathing’, is an established tradition of connecting with nature through all the senses. It became popular in the 1980s, after studies demonstrated its calming effects on both body and mind, reducing heart rate, stress hormones and blood pressure.
Research has long found that humans are pulled toward Mother Nature’s blue partly for its restorative benefits. The Victorians are a famous example. Doctors in that era prescribed sea air as a cure for all sorts of issues, from pulmonary complications to mental health conditions.
When we physically enter the water, our body can rest muscles used daily and exercise others that are used far less often. We also give up gravity, something that’s somatically a break for your brain. Many individuals view time spent in the water as an opportunity for insightful thinking and creative output. Equally, it can be a chance to allow your mind to wander and feel free.
Holidaying near water brings countless benefits. Whether you opt for water based activities or simply walking along a glorious stretch of water, you will reap considerable joy, tranquility and a sense of wellbeing.