Close your eyes, and picture yourself in a pure state of relaxation. Now, where are you? If you’re like me, you might have imagined yourself at the beach. After all, there’s no better feeling than the warm sun against your skin, the sand between your toes, and the breeze throughout your hair.
The beach is a place to disconnect from life’s distractions, and reconnect with ourselves. Looking out into the big, blue ocean can induce a sense of tranquility - and whether we’re feeling joyful or simply pensive, can really help to put things in perspective.
But have you ever wondered why exactly the beach makes us feel so good? Well according to researchers, there’s a whole range of reasons - from the way our brains react to the salty air, right down to the physiological effect of the colour blue. With this in mind, here’s a few reasons why I love visiting the beach on a regular basis.
‘Blue space’ improves our well-being
The colours we surround ourselves with can impact our mood - and blue brings forward a feeling of calm and serenity. It’s one of the reasons going to the beach feels so satisfying. And as it turns out, ‘blue space’ can have a real impact on our health, too.
The Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal) undertook a review of 35 studies on the colour, to find that blue spaces improve both our mental health and well-being - but also promote physical activity. The research was done as part of BlueHealth, an EU programme designed to study what impact being near bodies of water has on us.
More yet, one study even found that blue space increases creativity. By visiting the beach on a regular basis, and surrounding ourselves with the soothing colour of blue, we open ourselves up feelings of inspiration, calm, reduced-stress, and better health overall. Who knew a colour could have such an impact?
The ocean breeze is beneficial for the brain
For centuries, doctors prescribed patients time in the sun, air and sea to cure ailments. We now know these things likely can’t reverse serious afflictions. But anyone who’s ever filled their lungs with fresh, salty ocean air, can appreciate just how beneficial the beachy breeze can be. It’s not just in our heads, either.
Negative ions are atoms charged an extra electron, and occur at the beach, around waterfalls, or after a storm. When we breathe negative oxygen ions in, these could very well have a beneficial effect on the brain. In fact, one meta-analysis of air ions shows that after a high level of exposure, negative ions were associated with lower depression scores. Other doctors note high-density negative ions can be effective for Seasonal Affective Disorder.
At the beach I always try to take advantage of the salty air, by finding a place off on my own to focus on my breathing - all while becoming aware of my thoughts against the sound of soothing waves.
It gives our minds a rest
Looking out into the ocean is far different than looking out into a city street. On a sensory level, there’s a lot less going on - and it gives our minds the opportunity to take a much-needed rest.
“When you stand at the edge of water and look out on the horizon, it’s visually simplified relative to the room you’re sitting in right now, or a city you’re walking through, where you’re taking in millions of pieces of information every second,” said Wallace J. Nichols, a marine biologist and author of the book Blue Mind, to Huffington Post.
Filmmaker and advocate Céline Cousteau, who is also Jacques Cousteau's granddaughter, actually penned the forward of the book. She wrote: “We are beginning to learn that our brains are hardwired to react positively to water and that being near it can calm and connect us, increase innovation and insight, and even heal what’s broken.”
“We have a ‘blue mind’ - and it’s perfectly tailored to make us happy in all sorts of ways that go beyond relaxing in the surf, listening to the murmur of the stream, or floating quietly in a pool.”
As you can see, visiting the beach has a range of benefits, all of which can make you a happier and healthier person. If you have the luxury, include a regular beach visit into your self-care routine. Both looking out into the blue water and taking in the ocean breeze will improve your well-being, make you more creative, and a more joyful person overall.
Happy beach going!