I think most people know that feeling that overwhelms you when you start walking into the ocean. Its that first chill from the cold water, that becomes more natural as you walk deeper, and more of your body becomes submerged. Its that feeling of the water moving against your skin, feeling all you troubles float away with the tide. That is the feeling that I’m chasing; that weightlessness, feeling the waves move you along, the feeling of ease as soon as you step foot in the water.
There is a lot of research out there explaining the health and wellbeing benefits of being in the water. In medieval years, seawater was often used to treat illnesses of many kinds due to the high iodine and other mineral content. This was known as thalassotherapy, but now modern medicine has very much moved away from this technique, but that doesn’t mean it has no benefits for human health now. In this blog I am generally talking mental health and wellbeing, because that is mainly where the effects of the ocean can be found.
Balneotherapy is commonly used to effectively treat anxiety disorders, possibly as well as the use of anti-depressant drug paroxetine. Balneotherapy is essentially bathing in special mineral water, that can be moved around with jets. Feeling the weight of the water, or feeling it move against your skin, makes you feel grounded, reducing feelings of anxiety. This is an amazing discovery because with the increase of drug resistance prevalent in todays society, it gives a drug free alternative to assisting with reducing general anxiety disorder.
We all know that exercise benefits mental health by clearing your mind and boosting endorphins, but is exercising in natural environmental more beneficial? Well yes, due to the perception of the natural environment by the brain triggering positive reactions. In this small scale study, they found that people who frequent through natural environments during exercise are at lower risk of poor mental health. However, there will be variation in how frequently the exercises are performed, type of exercise and other factors.
The wellbeing effects of being at the beach are mainly due to the combined effect of listening to waves, and the exposure to sunlight. Exposing yourself to a sensible amount of sunlight on a daily basis has been found to have a positive affect on your mood. This is due to a hormone called serotonin, which is responsible for increasing your mood, and also helps a person feel calm. The sounds of crashing waves, has a calming affect on a lot of people, possibly due to the association people making with the beach and happiness. It also activates our parasympathetic nervous system, allowing us to feel more relaxed and engaged. Just living in close proximity to the beach can have significant positive affects on mental and physical health.
Another factor that contributes to the feelings of calmness and happiness that we feel when we are at the beach, actually comes from the colour of the ocean. The colour blue is generally associated with feeling of calm and can possibly increase creativity.
So get on down to the beach this weekend, trust me you wont regret it. If you have any questions or want to know more about the benefits of the ocean, let me know in the comments or find me on Instagram @the_bluescientist.