Being by The Sea is Good for Your Health
The virtues of ‘vitamin sea’ are often seen as a bit of a cliché but if you’ve often headed to the seaside to recharge without really knowing why it feels quite so restorative, then read on to discover more.
If you find yourself sighing a big sigh of relief whenever you get near the sea, there’s a valid reason why. When faced with a wide and seemingly never-ending vista like the ocean, we automatically revert to panoramic vision, a field of vision that allows the brain to receive as much information about your visual environment as possible, an act that is in itself a stress reliever. Getting away from screens especially, and into an environment that demands the exact opposite in terms of visual requirements from our brain, is also an instant way to activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which is the body’s rest and digest phase and is essential for helping us to slow down and switch off. In addition, research has shown that a mix of blue and green environments are hugely beneficial to our emotional wellbeing, so mix up your woodland walks with plenty of trips to the seaside and you’ll reap the rewards.
Fortifies us mentally
It’s not just the sight of the ocean that feels therapeutic, but the sounds of the ebb and flow of the waves too. In normal day-to-day life, we’re constantly stimulated and as a result, constantly depleting our mental energy. Once we get by the sea, the gentle monotony of the water serves to de-stimulate our brains, activate our relax response and engage what’s called our ‘soft attention’, which helps to replenish our mental reserves and build resilience.
Improves our oxygen intake
Thanks to an extra electron in the molecules, sea air (similar to the air around waterfalls, mountains and forests) is charged with negative ions, which experts say could help improve our ability to absorb oxygen. Once it reaches our bloodstream it also causes a chemical reaction which is thought to increase levels of serotonin which boosts mood and reduces feeling of anxiety and stress.
Encourages a more meditative state
It’s well known that the colour blue induces feelings of peace and bolsters creativity so being by the sea is a great idea to help you feel calmer and more centred. In fact it’s thought that staring at the ocean actually triggers changes in our brain chemistry by stimulating the prefrontal cortex, an area in the brain that’s responsible for personal reflection.
Improved lung function
Taking in sea air is a centuries old convalescence therapy for patients with lung conditions, and with good reason. According to one study which monitored those with a history of lung diseases, consistent exposure to sea air resulted in a variety of improvements in individual conditions, including thinner mucus, reduced coughing and increased lung capacity. Another study, this time in Australia, showed that sea air contributed to clearer lungs in the cystic fibrosis sufferers that took part.
Helps skin conditions
Alongside the myriad benefits of cold-water swimming (increased serotonin and dopamine levels and reduced cortisol and adrenaline levels to name a few), studies show that the benefits of salt water on inflammatory skin conditions such as psoriasis are plentiful, thanks to the magnesium, calcium and potassium found in salt water. As well as speeding up the healing process and providing an anti-bacterial function, the minerals also help strengthen the function of the skin barrier which keeps essential moisture in and prevents excessive dryness.