What Being Near the Ocean Actually Does to Our Brain
There’s something magical in gazing at the ocean with never-ending waves. Whether’s an ocean, lake, river, or waterfall, it helps us calm like nothing else. We’ve all probably felt that feeling at some point when standing near a large body of water.
But, even though we know it’s healthy, what exactly happens to our minds when being close to an ocean?
Researchers have found that the ocean helps reduce anxiety, inspire creative thinking, and promote compassionate thinking.
Wallace J. Nichols is a scientist and marine biologist who reveals the latest research 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.”
As Nichols writes:
We have a ‘blue mind’ — and it’s perfectly tailored to make us happy in all sorts of ways that go way beyond relaxing in the surf, listening to the murmur of a stream, or floating quietly in a pool.
He defines “Blue Mind” as
a mildly meditative state characterized by calm, peacefulness, unity, and a sense of general happiness and satisfaction with life in the moment. It is inspired by water and elements associated with water, from the color blue to the words we use to describe the sensations associated with immersion.
You experience this when gazing at the ocean, or just sitting near it. It relaxes the brain, at the same time making it focused.
As Nichols explains, water provides many emotional, cognitive, social, and physiological benefits. In one of his TEDx talks, he says
Nature is medicine – a walk on the beach; a surfing session; a stroll through the woods heals us. It fixes what broken inside of us. Nature can reduce our stress, it can make us more creative and bring us together.
The moment before going into the water, you feel a sense of awe and wonder.
This sense of awe moves us from a ‘me’ to a ‘we’ perspective. Awe and wonder, and passion takes over in water.
There is a feeling of connection to others and something beyond the immediate.
You can now understand why many people like to spend their days of retirement at the seaside, or why a lot of events, ceremonies, and celebrations take place near the ocean.
Scientists at the University of Exeter investigated the data of 48 million English people from the 2001 census, looking at how happy they said they were during that period.
What they did is comparing their “level” of happiness with how close they lived to the sea. They concluded that those who live closer to the English coast are happier than others.
In fact, just a glimpse of the ocean can improve one’s mental health.
Scientists at Michigan State University and Canterbury University, Otago University, researched the link between exposure to blue and green space and mental health.
Blue space signifies water visibility. The research discovered that you could help reduce stress and improve your wellbeing just by seeing the ocean.
Even though the discovery is not surprising at all, it is scientific proof that water holds something special for you.
Do you feel the same way when standing near the ocean? Check out the video below to see Nichol’s TEDx talk: