The Ocean + Our Mental Health

Most of us by now are familiar with the idea that the environment plays a critical role in our health both physically and mentally. We’ve taken a look at how being in, around, or simply thinking about the ocean allows us to become better, calmer, more connected, and creative. 

 

How do you feel when you think about the ocean or being at the beach? It’s likely (assuming you don’t have a fear of deep water and everything that lives in it) that you feel an almost instant sense of calm and relaxation. We often associate the ocean with vacation, paradise, an escape, a place to lounge or get in flow while playing a water sport. 

Thanks to Wallace J. Nichols, Author and Neuroscientist, we now recognize that our brains are tapping into the “Blue Mind” when we feel this way when we’re thinking about water. “Blue Mind”  is the name given to the positive mental state we associate with being near or on the water- even when we are far from it. 

The sight and sound of water alone lets our brains relax. The sound of crashing waves and the simplicity of looking at water is much easier for our brains to process than the stimulation we receive day to day, minute by minute on the streets of a busy city, at home with the kids, or at work. The very act of just listening to the ocean or walking along the shore allows us to relax and slow down. This meditative state that we fall into when near water lowers our stress levels, improves our mental clarity, relieves mild anxiety, and improves our mood.

Beyond relaxation, once we’ve entered the “Blue Mind” a whole host of additional benefits ensue. One of them being an increased sense of connectedness and belonging to the planet and those around us. Once we’ve relaxed, we can begin to experience a heightened sense of awe, which often evokes a deep sense of appreciation of the beauty and gifts our oceans and planet have to offer. This empathy allows us for our brains to switch gears in thinking from ego, “I”, to “we”. 

And what do you get when you mix positive relaxation, calmness, empathy, and awe? Creativity. When our brains can quiet down, we can think about things from a new perspective which creates new neural pathways in our brains. These new neural pathways allow us to find solutions to things we thought we couldn’t before, think about a problem or scenario differently, and literally forces our brains to grow. 

So, the next time you take a trip to the beach or pour yourself a hot bath with our seaweed soaks, you’re not only soaking up the benefits of the land and sea, but you’re making your brain smile.