Science Says: Being Near The Ocean Changes Your Brain, And You WON’T BELIEVE How!
The soothing effects of the ocean in your mind
Humans have always been attracted by the ocean, so much so that much of the coasts have been invaded by different civilizations. Today, we still see water as a source of clarity, calm, creativity and relaxation.
But exactly what are the effects of the ocean on our mind? Marine biologist Wallace J. Nichols has described it as a ‘blue mind’, which is a moderate meditative state characterized by calm, peace, unity and a sense of happiness and overall satisfaction with life at that time. According to his studies this meditative state is triggered when you are near or even in the water.
“We are beginning to learn that our brains are interconnected to react positively to the water and that being close to it can calm us down…increase innovation and hindsight and even heal us,” writes Nichols in his book “Blue Mind: The Surprising Science That Shows How Being Near, In, On, or Under Water Can Make You Happier, Healthier, More Connected, and Better at What You Do.”, which further explains that this might be the reason why surfing, listening to the murmur of a stream, following the rhythm of the waves or floating in silence in a pool produces a state of relaxation that we all have probably experienced.
From an auditory perspective, the sound of the ocean is simple. Although it is not silence, the noises produced by water are much simpler than that of voices or music. The vision is also simplified. Standing on the water’s edge and looking at the horizon, the view you have is much simpler than being in a room full of things, or a city with its buildings, bystanders, and cars. So, Nichols suggests that simplifying information can help calm the mind, just as it does during meditation.
And if the blue of the sea seems to open us to a positive emotional drift, it is no surprise, because the sea is able to stimulate the production of dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin, or hormones that contribute to the feeling of happiness. But not only that. Proximity to water increases calmness and decreases anxiety much more effectively than drugs, improves performance, expands creativity by increasing personal success, strengthens the connection with the world of nature, and improves the overall health. On the other hand, Nichols insists that water is our first habitat in the maternal womb, makes up our body for 75% and it is 80% of the world’s population that lives close the water.
No need to meditate, because it ponders for you. Just sit by the sea, along a river, even just having an aquarium on your desk, watching a photo or listening to a CD with the sounds of the waves. And Blue Mind is active. “How many times do you have an intuition, a new idea, or a solution to a problem appears in your head apparently from nothing? It is the default-mode network that fits in, allowing the brain to connect connections between different elements to create something entirely new. It’s what happens after a few moments sitting on the shore between the noise of the waves, the smell of the ocean, the flying seagulls. ” – says Nichols in his book.
Finally, the author also refers to the blue color, which has been related by previous studies with relaxation. According to Leslie Harrison, director of the Association of Color of U.S.A., the blue color reduces the blood flow.
Similarly, scientists at the University of Exeter, UK, found that people who live closer to the English coast, are both healthier and happier. These researchers were able to prove this by using data from 48 million people and the British census from 2001, comparing how close they lived to the sea as well as their levels of health and happiness.
In fact, even the very sight of water can have great mental health benefits. This finding is the result of a cooperative study, conducted by the Otago University, Canterbury University, and Michigan State University. Their study examined the relationship between exposure to green and blue spaces and the human mental health. These blue spaces encompassed water visibility in particular, and their discovery is not surprising at all: just being able to see water both reduces stress and can contribute to much greater well-being, including the mental health.
If you’re an avid fan of water like me, you now know why water benefits you so much!