Have you ever noticed that being near any body of water makes you instantly feel more relaxed and at peace? According to an article from Psychology Today, research has shown that being around “blue space” – water such as lakes, oceans, etc. – could have a beneficial impact on one’s health. In fact, coastal environments have been associated with improved mental and physical well-being in numerous studies over the past decade. While time spent in nature has benefits including the physical activity and extra dose of vitamin D we get with most outdoor activities, research has shown that aquatic spaces are special.
A simple stroll along the beach (*or near the beach today) promotes the practice of mindfulness almost automatically, as the body and mind engage easily with sound of the waves, the smell of ocean air, and the visual serenity of the sea in all its glory. Studies point to several factors for why this happens. According to Richard Shuster, PsyD, clinical psychologist and host of “The Daily Helping” podcast:
“The color blue has been found by an overwhelming number 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.” He also says that the ebbing and flowing sounds of waves de-stimulates the brain and activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for slowing down the mind and allowing us to feel more relaxed.
The smell of the ocean breeze can be soothing, which may have something to do with the negative ions in the air. These oxygen atoms have an extra electron and occur in places like waterfalls and the ocean, says Shuster. A study published in the Journal of Alternative Complementary Medicine suggests that negative ion therapy could be used to treat symptoms of seasonal affective disorder.
Whatever the reason, there is little doubt that time near the water can do a lot for your mental well-being. Whether you get out by the ocean or lagoon a few times a week or every day, it’s a great way to get some much-needed R&R and refill your self-care cup.
The Mental Health Association in Indian River County (MHA) is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing immediate access with no barriers to mental health care. MHA has clinical team of seven therapists and operates a Walk-In & Counseling Center in Vero Beach as well as Drop-In Centers in Indian River, Martin, and Okeechobee counties. They also offer six-week structured psychoeducational classes in Mindfulness and Empowerment.