I know what you’re thinking. It’s a suspicious headline coming from a website that wants you to venture to the beach. But have we ever lead you astray, reader? Has science? The notion that nature has a therapeutic effect is not a new one. In fact, back in the 18th century, Victorians were commonly prescribed trips to the shore to alleviate certain pains. What is it about the beach that’s so beneficial to our mental and emotional well-being, anyway?
When it comes to why, exactly, the beach gets you feeling all Zen, there are a few factors at play, says Richard Shuster, PsyD, clinical psychologist and host of The Daily Helping podcast.
“The color blue has been found by an overwhelming amount of people to be associated with feelings of calm and peace,” says Shuster. “Staring at the ocean actually changes our brain waves’ frequency and puts us into a mild meditative state.” A study published in the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s journal even found that blue is associated with a boost of creativity.
Spending time near the water relaxes us and helps boost serotonin levels. That’s the happy chemical. It’s no coincidence many medical offices use pictures of oceans and beaches as decor. They invoke calming feelings even if you’re not physically there. Some airlines and even dental practices are using VR technology to reduce anxiety in flyers and patients by putting them on a virtual beach. Medical Daily also published a study revealing ocean water contains minerals that help the body fight infection, and breathing in salty sea air may help us sleep better at night.
Consider the instant benefits your brain receives from negative ions in the misty ocean air. In 1932, American research engineer Clarence Hansell noticed the mood of one of his colleagues fluctuated in response to the different types of ions, subsequently leading to later studies showing negatively ionized air can alleviate symptoms of seasonal affective disorder. “I’ll have what he’s having!”
Hey, maybe you didn’t need scientific proof that there’s nothing quite like listening to waves crash on a beach, but it’s certainly not a bad excuse to plan a trip. You know, for your health.