Yesterday, we talked about how spending time in Nature supports brain function and helps you relax. I also shared with you some guidelines for how much time you should aim to spend outdoors each day, month, and year to achieve those benefits.
So, today, let’s turn our attention to the many benefits of spending time near one of my favorite places on Earth…the seashore.
I’ve always found great comfort—physically, mentally, and spiritually—by spending time near (or in) water. Granted, I spent a lot of time as a child on the coast of northern New England (my favorite place!). And I still spend a lot of time near the ocean in New England and Florida.
But there’s more to it than that…
In fact, modern science shows that spending time near and around all types of water offers significant therapeutic benefits. Let’s “dive” right in…
Modern science confirms health benefits of water
The earliest humans often established their settlements near water to help with farming, trade, and transportation. Plus, access to freshwater allowed for a plentiful, clean source for drinking, laundry, and bathing.
People also came to associate water with healing. In fact, hundreds of years ago, people began taking “the water cure” to help recover from many different types of chronic illnesses. And, in ancient folk medicine in America and Europe, people often used hot mineral waters, salt baths, mud baths, and thermal springs to treat sore, inflamed joints and other ailments.
We’re also drawn to “blue spaces” on a deeply spiritual level. And we associate them with meditation, reflection, relaxation, tranquility, and happiness. (Notwithstanding the regular nor’easter storms experienced on the coast of northern New England.)
And now, modern science has confirmed that people do really benefit physically, emotionally, and spiritually from spending time near ALL types of water—including oceans, rivers, lakes, canals, waterfalls, and even fountains and pools.
Even an entire field of study called “blue mind science” considers the benefits of spending time near water. And Wallace Nichols, a marine biologist and author of the book Blue Mind, said humans are somewhat “hard-wired” to spend time near the water.
In a recent interview, he said:
Water is considered the elixir and source of life. It covers more than 70 percent of the Earth’s surface, makes up nearly 70 percent of our bodies, and constitutes over 70 percent of our hearts and brains. This deep biological connection has been shown to trigger an immediate response in our brains when we’re near water. In fact, the mere sight and sound of water can induce a flood of neurochemicals that promote wellness, increase blood flow to the brain and heart and induce relaxation.
Indeed, research shows that being near water reduces anxiety and stress, and increases your sense of well-being and happiness. Physiologically, it lowers heart and respiratory rates. It also boosts creativity, stimulates interpersonal interactions, and supports a range of emotional expressions, from play and romance to grieving.
Of course, being near water also stimulates the senses…
The seashore is a feast for the senses
When you’re near water, you visually take in so much of the color blue, which seems to naturally invoke feelings of peace and calm. Clinical psychological studies show that staring at the blue ocean even changes brain wave patterns and induces a meditative state.
In addition, listening to the sounds of waves crashing or rolling on the shore and smelling (and even tasting) the salty sea air can create a soothing, relaxing response. Not to mention, the electrically charged particles (ions) in the sea air help calm the mind.
Touching the warm sand with your feet, hands, and body is also relaxing. In fact, connecting the body directly to any type of Earth (without insulating shoes and clothes) is called “earthing.” And it stimulates the flow of electrically charged ions to literally “ground” the body and mind.
I also find that some of the best exercise comes from swimming in natural bodies of water. It’s far gentler on your joints than pounding away on hard pavement or a treadmill. Plus, it’s just so much more enjoyable. And you’ll get healthy sun exposure to boot!
When I’m out in the Atlantic, swimming my laps, I often think of that catchy 1941 tune “The Beautiful Sea” by the composer Harry Carroll. The song “topped the charts” for six weeks during that fateful summer, right before U.S. involvement in World War II. It goes:
By the sea, by the sea, by the beautiful sea!
You and me, you and me, oh how happy we’ll be!
When each wave comes a-rolling in
We will duck or swim,
And we’ll float and fool around the water.
So, if you can manage it, try to spend as much time as you can near (or in) the water. I find the late summer/early fall is a particularly special time of year, especially here along the New England coast. In fact, now that the children are back to school (hopefully), the beaches are perfect for those contemplative and restorative walks along the water.
You can learn more about the benefits of spending time in Nature in the June 2019 issue of my monthly newsletter, Insiders’ Cures (“Your warm-weather guide for safe and effective outdoor exercise”). Subscribers have access to this report and all of my past content in the archives. So, if you haven’t already, sign up today. Click here now!
“Blue mind science proves the health benefits of being by water.” Quartz, 8/5/2019. (qz.com/1347904/blue-mind-science-proves-the-health-benefits-of-being-by-water/)