We never tire of the beach! Last week we talked about getting creative and digging in the sand so that got us to thinking about the ocean and what it is that makes us feel so good after a day playing in it!
We are definitely more relaxed after a day at the beach – which might explain why a whopping 45% of vacations are taken there! The ocean is an elixir for our souls and our sense of physical well-being. There are good reasons why: first, seawater itself. Seawater consists of many of the essential elements, like magnesium, sodium, potassium, and calcium, we need to survive. But it isn’t just the ocean’s “nutritional” value that affects us – the visual expanse and the sound of the waves also contribute. How? Let’s take a look!
Do the (Ocean) Wave – Your pre-frontal cortex will love it! Scientists know this because scans taken on participants show that region of our brains actively engages when ocean sounds like waves are played. The pre-frontal cortex is the section of our brain that is associated with emotion and self-reflection and this area lights up when we hear the ocean. In contrast, the same studies show that when loud noises from traffic and airplanes were played for participants the stress hormone cortisol was released. Interestingly, the sounds of the ocean decrease cortisol levels. Ocean sounds also change our brain wave patterns and brings us into a more tranquil state. Try meditating next time with the sounds of the ocean in the background to reach your Samādhi!
Negative Ions = Positive Health Benefits! – Spending a day by the ocean bathes us in negative ions that are produced from fresh air and splashing water. These negative ions have been found to help us absorb oxygen, level out our blood pressure, increase body alkalinity, balance our serotonin which affects our mood and stress among other positive influences.
Negative ion molecules can be found in natural places and are found in larger numbers in forests, waterfalls and oceans. Ocean spray from crashing surf is loaded with them! Air circulating in the mountains and the beach can have up to tens of thousands of negative ions in contrast to our homes and offices which might contain low numbers or actually be a big fat zero.
(“What about positive ions”, you ask? Well, positive ions are free radicals that are emitted from things like electricity, cell phones, televisions, microwaves and computers, which, according to organiclife.com, are associated with an increase in allergies, lethargy, depression, and anxiety among other decidedly un-positive outcomes!)
Catch Some Well Being – After sodium, magnesium “the happy mineral” is the next abundant mineral found in seawater. Absorbing magnesium from a swim in the ocean can relax your muscles and reduce anxiety as well as promote a general sense of calm.
Glow Away – Although the salt in seawater can be drying to our skin, a swim in the ocean can help skin conditions like acne and inflamed skin issues like psoriasis and eczema. Psoriasis sufferers (or anyone actually!) can benefit from a mild exfoliation from the salt in the water. Due to the salinity of the ocean, seawater can also be exceptional for healing and disinfecting cuts and wounds.
See-worthy – Finally, the visual expanse of the ocean has a leveling effect on our psyche, says Michael Merzenich, Professor of Neuroscience at UC San Francisco. “The smooth surface of the ocean rarely surprises, which is soothing.” Gazing out at the ocean can clear the mind and help us forget about the day-to-day issues that hijack our focus. Water can give our brain a rest and what brain doesn’t need that. It’s no wonder there’s a worldwide attraction to the color blue!