Outdoor-types know that one of the main benefits of visiting the beach is that it feels amazing. Just letting the sand play between your toes and the salty air kiss your skin gives you a life boost like nothing else. Since ancient times, humans have assigned healing and transformational properties to water. Maybe it’s the humbling experience of walking beneath an endless sky or the gently rhythmic lapping of the waves which provide such a calmness and grounding for beach-lovers – whatever it is, we know it feels incredible.
People who prefer the whir and glitz of city life might argue that going to the beach is good for the soul. However neuroscientists have now provided conclusive proof that aside from aesthetic beauty, going to the beach actually serves to boost our physical and mental health. The way your brain is affected by the intoxicating scent of the ocean and the sound of the powerful ocean waters makes you feel as relaxed as though were put under hypnosis, and scientists have named the effect as “Blue Space”. Just like the science of soulventure, the benefits of visiting the beach are very real and tangible, as you’ll soon discover…
Health Benefits of Visiting the Beach According to Neuroscience
[blockquote align=”right” author=”Dr Hipp”]Studies have shown that natural environments like beaches and waterfront parks offer more restorative benefits to people than gyms, entertainment venues and the built urban environment,[/blockquote] In a study published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology, author J. Aaron Hipp, Ph.D., (environmental health expert and assistant professor at the Brown School) looked at the restorative nature and health benefits of visiting the beach* – “Studies have shown that natural environments like beaches and waterfront parks offer more restorative benefits to people than gyms, entertainment venues and the built urban environment,” said Dr. Hipp. He goes on to explain how it’s not just being at the beach which has its benefits, but also the conditions; ““Mild temperature days and low tides offer the most restorative environments when visiting the beach,” said Dr Hipp, “Beachgoers visiting on a day nearly 3 degrees (F) warmer than average were 30% less likely to perceive the beach or coastal park as restorative, compared with those visiting on average or cooler than average days,” [blockquote align=”right” author=”Dr Hipp”]Mild temperature days and low tides offer the most restorative environments when visiting the beach[/blockquote]
But why? Why does visiting the beach offer such a mental and physical boost? Let’s explore…
Five Reasons Why Visiting the Beach is Good For Us…
Throughout history humans walked, sat and slept on the ground, cultivated their land with bare hands and spent a lot of their time naturally grounded. However, today, we have become increasingly disconnected from nature by our modern lifestyle. [blockquote align=”right” author=””]ground beneath us is referred to as grounding (or earthing) and offers several vital life-giving health benefits[/blockquote]Research has shown that connecting to the Earth by walking can diminish chronic pain, fatigue and other ailments that affect so many people today. This connection to the ground beneath us is referred to as grounding (or earthing) and offers several vital life-giving health benefits, especially when we walk barefoot. [blockquote align=”right” author=””]the soles of your feet have more sweat glands and nerve-endings per square centimetre than any other part of your body[/blockquote]Did you know that the soles of your feet have more sweat glands and nerve-endings per square centimetre than any other part of your body? Walking barefoot on sand when visiting the beach helps stimulate these nerve endings, whilst also strengthening the muscles in your feet, whilst also grounding us and restoring our natural energy flow.
#2 A Dose of Vitamin D
Although there are other sources of vitamin D, according to Harvard Medical School you absorb vitamin D most effectively when it comes from the sun in UVB form. This is because sunlight reacts with a cholesterol-related compound in the body which then metabolises into vitamin D. In one study, exposure to sunshine by enjoying an outdoors lifestyle was shown to offer benefits such as an increase in endorphins and possible prevention of autoimmune diseases. Vitamin D is crucial for our overall health – those deficient in this wonder-vitamin can be at risk of osteoporosis, heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer, diabetes, asthma and more. When we visit the beach, no matter if its blazing summer sun or the gentle lemony rays of springtime, vitamin D soaks into us and our overall health and mood reaps the benefits.
#3 A Dose of Vitamin Sea
Life-affirming swims in the sea can help to fight off infection and gives the body endless benefits for the body and mind. Why? Well seawater has high levels minerals like magnesium, iodine, and potassium which have therapeutic effects and help the body heal and detoxify. Thalassotherapy, (from the Greek thalasso meaning ‘sea’ and therapia meaning ‘treatment’), uses the healing and beneficial properties of the sea and the marine environment for your health and is defined today as a seawater cure in a medically supervised environment.
Visiting the beach and immersing yourself in the ocean air is also highly beneficial for health, as it fills you with negatively charged ions – molecules that attach to your lung tissue and boost your immune system. Swimming in the ocean helps open up the pores in the skin, allowing absorption of the mineral and the ridding of toxins from the body. Do you need any more convincing for a long cool dip in the ocean?
#4 It Boosts Creativity and Productivity
[blockquote align=”right” author=”Wallace J. Nichols”]a mildly meditative state characterised by calm, peacefulness, unity, and a sense of general happiness and satisfaction with life in the moment[/blockquote] Marine biologist Wallace J. Nichols believes that we all have a “blue mind” ( as he puts it) which is triggered when we’re in or near water. He says that a blue mind is “a mildly meditative state characterised by calm, peacefulness, unity, and a sense of general happiness and satisfaction with life in the moment”. Do you ever feel like you’re in a creative rut and want to bang your head against the wall? Well, scientists now believe that those who are in a creative checkmate can hugely benefit by visiting the beach. Being in blue space allows you to clear your head and tackle your problems and creative hurdles in a much more succinct fashion. Much like meditation, being at the beach encourages a calmness and a calm head which allows you to tune everything else out and reflect on what it is you’ve been needing to focus on.
#5 Improves Our Relationships
Whilst enjoying the restful, contemplative state associated with visiting the beach and being close to water, it’s common to experience feelings of awe. Feeling awe as a result of the stunning views, the vastness of the ocean or the enormity of the sky invokes feelings of a connection to something beyond oneself. We feel this sense of vastness as an attempt to make sense of the experience.
“When you experience that feeling of awe, you get that ‘one with the universe’ feeling,” says Wallace J. Nichols. “You feel connected to yourself, the world around you, and whoever you happen to be with. That puts you in a ‘we’ state of mind.” It’s perhaps no coincidence then that proposals, marriages and honeymoons happen overwhelmingly at stunning coastal locations.
Nature in general has always been a factor in healthy happy lives, but the beach in particular is so good for the soul. It’s almost too obvious, and often gets overlooked, but the health and neurological benefits of visiting the beach are very real and shouldn’t be ignored.
Go and find your next soulventure at the beach and share your experience with us over on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter. We can’t wait to see how the health benefits of visiting the beach have helped you in your life!
*Hipp’s study is published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology.