The coast is not just where the shore meets the sea. It is also an abundant provider of therapeutic and restorative sources for human health.
Nature’s Secret Weapon
Much like enveloping yourself in nature—taking a forest walk or even just chilling in your garden—lower blood pressure by releasing brain activity strain and muscle tension, so does exposing ourselves to the ocean. Water bodies like lakes, rivers, and seas also significantly reduce levels of the stress hormone, cortisol. Similar to what the green of plants, trees, and mountains does to boost our endorphins, so does time spent near a blue space. The “blue” of the water, be it calm, trickling, or roaring, majorly boosts endorphin levels in our bodies as well as dopamine production. Basically, the presence of water near us promotes happiness!
Sea Salt Therapy
It has been proven that people living within 5 km of the coastline have drastically lower stress levels than those living further inland. If you are not so fortunate enough to live within this radius, fear not. There is a lucrative abundance of ways to receive ocean benefits just by walking near the ocean or even hearing a seagull’s call. Even for those that have to invest time and energy into planning a beach trip, the after-effects are well worth it. In the UK, studies have reported families are at their happiest during and following their time spent on beach trips and around marine environments. This is even when compared with other natural activities like camping in the forest or hiking in the mountains. Something about sandy toes and salt-sticky hair ignites your skin, refreshing the natural glow that is hidden under harsh indoor lighting.
Self-Awareness Through the Sea
The ability for nature to assist with everyday human processes should not technically astound us. It is exactly where we come from after all: mankind was not created inside four walls, but out there, in the wild. In this way it makes sense that our innermost body responses react so profoundly to the outdoors and what it has to offer. Spending just two hours out in the woods is enough to drastically improve sleep quality. Outside time has even been proven to alleviate sleep problems for insomniacs. Because of the natural promotion of endorphins and dopamine, embedding oneself into nature also helps with grieving. Studies have revealed that by exposing ourselves to natural surroundings, we are better attuned to cope with what is happening to us. Those that are on a journey of self-discovery—or even those that are just wondering—find solace in nature through improved self-awareness, self-concept, and general positivity.
Solace In The Spray
Unfortunate as it may be, there is no denying that there is a harsh mental health crisis in many places across the globe. Countries like the UK have been battling with rising suicide numbers over the last decade, with the COVID-19 pandemic placing an additional impenetrable layer to reaching those in need. In the last 18 months, with access to mental health care becoming increasingly challenging, the lack of available resources for people going through hardship is overwhelmingly apparent. On average, one in every six adults across the UK has experienced—or is experiencing—anxiety or depression; all symptoms associated with mental health disorders.
Although the recent increase in mental health issues across the globe is concerning, there is hope in the fact that the issue is at least being discussed now. No longer is there a perpetual cloud of shame hovering over even the topic of mental health. Yes, there are many barriers to the concept being openly accepted in healthcare and even in working environments. However, just talking about it is a much-needed first step. Opening platforms for discussion in government policy meetings and involving organizations to develop locally-specific strategies to tackle how to minimize people’s mental hardships and suffering. With increasing studies on what activities improve people’s moods, the ocean and its presence are moving quickly up the list of positive ways to naturally affect change.
By opening this discussion in light of recent world changes, valuable insight can be gained on how best to tackle the challenge that is the solitude one feels when experiencing mental distress. With increased easy-to-access resources—like strolling to the nearest seaside bench—or even just the knowledge that the ocean and its surrounding effects are a great way to feel better, people are better-equipped to understand their hardship and take the necessary steps to working through it.
These steps are positive for the direction that the discussion is needed to head in, but it is undeniable that further research is required on this topic. The effects of embedding learning and wellbeing facilities in and near marine environments could have drastically positive influences on economic, social, and economic groups. Research really only serves to paint a bigger picture for us and for professionals to better draw up a plan to tackle the challenges we are experiencing.
Keen To Try It Out?
- Start Small
There is no need to dig up your grandfather’s snorkeling gear or empty your pockets on new equipment., rather just take a short stroll outside. Aim for a nearby park or water body you know of. Sometimes the first green space or fountain you walk past will not spark joy, that is OK too. You could even take a blanket, a snack, and a reading or coloring book and just spend 30 minutes lounging on a cozy sandy patch where you can hear the boat horns go by. Unless the patch you choose is directly next to a construction site, you are guaranteed to feel slightly more relaxed than you were when you first set out.
- Shift Your Surroundings
If you struggle to find the time to allocate 30 minutes to yourself in a regular day, then remove the added pressure of that list item. Rather try to do something you already do but at a new location and with a much more appealing background. Shift that workout session outdoors. It could even be right outside where you live in your own little garden, patio, or balcony. Just completing small activities like walking, jogging, cycling, or stretching outdoors has marked improvements on your mental state.
- Breathe It In
Be sure to activate all of your senses when engaging in outdoor activities. Take extra deep breaths, try to pinpoint the smells you are taking in. Studies have even shown that simply by listening to natural sounds like rushing water and bird calls lowers stress levels. Take a stroll down past the beach, pause to soak in the salty spray, and embrace the sounds.
- Go Big
Tried all of these and are a firm believer in the benefits for your mental and physical well-being and are now ready for more? Go all in. Book yourself a beachside camping trip. Borrow the necessary equipment you need from a friend, or rent a camper van, or even treat yourself to a glamping stay along a marine cliff side. Immersion into nature for more than a couple hours is the ultimate reboot for your mental health. It really does not need to cost a lot—or any amount—of money to experience all the benefits that the ocean has to offer.