There you sit in your beach chair, listening to the surf and the waves crashing against the beach, like this Lilian Eden’s Natural Sound Series video. High above you, the sun is shining on the water, providing a bright blue glow to the afternoon. As you take in the cool relentless ocean breeze all around, a sense of peaceful grace comes over you. You don’t know what time it is and you really don’t care. You are not alone. According to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) our beaches are a top destination, attracting about 90 million people a year which generates 85 percent of all U.S. tourism revenues. To many, this is the power of the ocean, a calm and gentle place to relax and re-center while experiencing all the Health Benefits In Water. Have any idea why?
Ever notice how watching and hearing the ocean waves can be mesmerizing? Isn’t it great? Kind of like staring at a campfire while camping and being mesmerized the same way. It’s captivating in a calming and hypnotic way. It brings a calm focus and gentle awareness to the mind that has the same stress relieving effects as practicing mindfulness meditation.
You want proof? In 2010 researchers at Plymouth University in the United Kingdom asked forty adults to rate over one hundred pictures of different natural and urban environments. Respondents gave higher ratings for positive mood, preference, and perceived restorativeness to any picture containing water, whether it was in a natural landscape or an urban setting, as opposed to those photos without water. In a
National Institutes Of Health (NIH) study conducted a pretest-posttest investigation of a sports-oriented occupational therapy intervention using surfing in an experiential, skills-based program to support veterans with symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in their transition to civilian life, and found participants reported clinically meaningful improvement in PTSD symptom severity and depression. According to Gallup Poll surveys, what state in the entire country do you think ranks first for 6 straight years when the residents reported being the happiest and enjoyed an overall state of well being? Did you guess Hawaii? There’s even research going on right now that’s looking at an ocean fish-killing toxin has the potential to kill or slow the growth of cancer cells, even at very low concentrations according to 2009 USDA/Agricultural Research Service. Preliminary studies have demonstrated the toxin to be highly effective against renal cancer, one of the most challenging cancers to treat.
Since the beginning of time, humans have assigned healing and transformation properties of water. In early Rome, baths were an important part of cultural life, a place where citizens went to find relaxation and to connect with others in a calming setting. In ayurveda, the ancient Indian medicinal wisdom, and traditional Chinese medicine, the water element is crucial to balancing the body and creating physical harmony.
Even in the 1700s the notion that being near a beach makes one feel healthy is not new, of course. Doctors were prescribing trips to the shore or visits to “bathing hospitals” as early as 1100s, which were special clinics that offered seawater bath treatments, on a frequent basis.
A great example of this in the Hospital of St John the Baptist, in Bath, England, founded in 1180 by Bishop Reginald of Bath for the sick and poor of the city in order that they might have the benefit of the seawaters.
Water has even symbolized rebirth, spiritual cleansing and salvation. It is instinctively instilled in all of us. That’s why we are all drawn to the sea and have that feeling of awe! And luckily so, with all the health and well being benefits available for all of us by being on the sea! Evidence from the UK suggests that the benefits from the ocean are accessible to everyone, per a 2012 Health Place study (NIH), but the benefits may be the greatest among lower socio‐economic status groups in part because unlike other natural environments such as woodlands, seas and coasts are used by all groups in society for recreation, per a 2018 Marine Policy study. Let’s look at some of these benefits:
People tend to associate the color blue with qualities like calm, openness, depth and wisdom, so is there any wonder there is a near universal attraction to the color blue and blue-water? Being on or near the water, particularly the sea, relieves us of stress and anxiety because the sea has such an overpowering calming effect on the body.
The relentless pounding of the waves act as a white noise filter, and you are transformed to a state of mindfulness and your mind feels clearer and healthier. Here is an example of the mesmerizing sound of the ocean (1). This NIH study confirms the positive effects of mindfulness on psychological well being.
The NIH in another study investigated white noise, like listening to the ocean surf, and promoting sleep, particularly with babies.
Evidence has also emerged from research that being near the sea can be very effective in treating certain forms of depression, such as Seasonal Defective Disorder (SAD). SAD is a form of depression that occurs in individuals only during the fall and winter months, then subsides in the spring and summer. A study conducted by the NIH involved the treatment of seasonal effective disorder (seasonal depression) with a high-output negative ionizer or ions, as found in sea water and in the sea air, had some interesting results. The study found that
Treatment with a high-density negative ionizer appears to act as a specific antidepressant for patients with seasonal effective disorder.
Studies in the 3 countries New Zealand, Ireland and Hong Kong even suggest that merely having a view of the ocean from home is associated with a lower risk of general and/or mental health problems, after taking into account direct coastal engagement and various socio‐economic factors: One study in Ireland in 2018 “Coastal blue space and depression in older adults” published in the Health Place, one in China “Urban blue space and health and wellbeing in Hong Kong: Results from a survey of older adults“, published in 2019 in Health Place, and one in New Zealand “Residential exposure to visible blue space, but not green space, associated with lower psychological distress in a capital city“, published in 2016 in Health Place.
The surf’s not quiet, but the sound of water is far more simple and rhythmic than the sounds we are normally accustomed to in everyday life. Sounds, like the wind in the trees and waves lapping ashore, we sort of tune out, according to Orfeu Buxton, an associate professor of bio-behavioral health at Pennsylvania State University.
These “non-threatening” sounds of waves relax us and help us fall asleep, especially when relatively loud, can drown out those sounds that might otherwise raise red flags in the brain’s threat-activated vigilance system.
Having a masking form of noise can also help block other sounds you don’t have control over,
said Buxton. And the visual input is simpler too. When you stand at the edge of water and look out on the horizon, it’s visually simplified relative to everyday life, as well, where you’re typically taking in millions of pieces of information every second, over-taxing your brain.
Sense of Belonging
There’s also this sense of belonging, being a part of nature and reaping its healthy benefits, and although by realizing you are only a small part, you are still a unique and instrumental part of something much greater which also inspires awe which we’ll cover shortly.
This ScienceDaily study examined the benefits of living in proximity to the coast, which concluded that Brits who live by the coast report better physical and mental health than those living inland.
Wallace J. Nichols, a marine biologist, explains in his book “Blue Mind“, is that we all have a “blue mind” we all want to get back to that existence, which is a mildly meditative state characterized by calm, peacefulness, mindfulness, unity, and a sense of general happiness and satisfaction with life in the “here and now”, that’s triggered when we’re in or near water. When interviewed by the Washington Post, Mr. Nichols said,
We are beginning to learn that our brains are hardwired to react positively to water and that being near it can calm and connect us, increase innovation and insight, and even heal what’s broken,
Here is one excerpt from excerpts from his book The Blue Mind which is quite informing and worth reading, concerning the important role water play in human existence:
There’s something about water that draws and fascinates us. No wonder: It’s the most omnipresent substance on Earth and, along with air, the primary ingredient for supporting life as we know it… Water covers more than 70 percent of Earth’s surface (96 percent of it saline); 95 percent of those waters have yet to be explored. From one million miles away our planet resembles a small blue marble; from one hundred million miles it’s a tiny, pale, blue dot. ‘How inappropriate to call this planet Earth when it is quite clearly Ocean,’ author Arthur C. Clark once astutely commented. (pp. 8-9)
Then, there’s that sense of “awe”, one of the most incredible Health Benefits In Water, which growing research has shown is very healthy for humans, especially for the mind, which can make you happier, healthier, more humble, and more connected to the people around you.
Have you ever stood in the surf’s edge and looked at the horizon and as far as you can see in any direction in your peripheral vision, is water! And, if you’re real observant, you’ll even be able see the curvature of the Earth! Now, that’s a awe-inspiring moment if there’s ever been one!
It should not only make you feel more humble, a healthy positive emotion, because you realize you are just a small part of something much greater, according to a 2017 Journal of Personal Social Psychology (NIH); but also make you feel less rushed, less impatient, and more in tuned to savor the “hear and Now”, or a true healthy mindfulness, enhancing well being.
One American Psychology Association (APA) study found positive emotions were the result, which are markers of good health, especially by the awe we feel when touched by the beauty of nature, art, and spirituality, with lower levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines. Cytokines are proteins that signal the immune system to work harder. Sustained high levels of cytokines are associated with poorer health and such disorders as type-2 diabetes, heart disease, arthritis and even Alzheimer’s disease and clinical depression. Research has also shown awe can sharpen our brains and make us think more clearly.
A Emotion study out of the University of Minnesota (NIH) found that when people were induced to feel awe, they were less persuaded by weak arguments than people who did a neutral or routine activity. In contrast, some other positive emotions like anticipatory enthusiasm or amusement, made people more susceptible to weak arguments.
Participants who recalled an awe experience placed less value on money and material things than did participants who recalled a happy or neutral experience, and viewing awe-inducing images reduced the effort people were willing to put into getting money according to a Cambridge University Journal of Pacific Rim Psychology study entitled “Awe Weakens the Desire for Money”. Quoting the research:
The experience of awe elevates people from their mundane concerns, which are bounded by daily experiences such as the desire for money.
Enhances Creativity and More
While we’re exploring the benefits of being on the sea and encouraging mindfulness, there is another all-important aspect to the sea and it’s ability in spurring creativity, even to the point of having “genius” thoughts, as this ABC online article “How a love of sailing helped Einstein explain the universe“, discusses.
In this article it is said Einstein not only loved sailing, but also loved when the breeze dropped and the sails sagged, and he would whip out his notebook and begin scribbling away his ideas. Quoting from the article,
After 10 more years of sailing, on November 25, 1915, he officially published the gravitational field equations of general relativity, the so-called Einstein equations of relativity.
Einstein obviously figured out the concepts of space and time while sitting calmly on a lake. It seems great realizations occur when we’re chilling, staring up at the sky, out at the sea, or, even walking in the woods.
The Principle Of Grounding and Chronic Inflammation
Do you walk barefooted on the beach? If not, according to the latest research, maybe you should go barefooted. We all know about oxidation and free-radical damage in the cells of our bodies, leading to chronic inflammation and serious health issues such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease, And, although having some free-radicals is good, having to many has the opposite effect.
Free radicals lack sparks of energy known as ‘electrons’. One way to quell them is to give them electrons, and these can be supplied by nutrients (antioxidants) such as vitamins A, C and E, and plant substances known as ‘polyphenols’, or phytonutrients.
However, antioxidant substances we eat and drink are not the only way to get electrons into the body. Earthing does this too. If the body has a positive charge on it, earthing allows electrons to flow into the body where, in theory, they can neutralize overblown free radical and inflammatory damage.
The National Institutes Of Health (NIH) confirms the importance of grounding in this study and concluded,
Accumulating experiences and research on earthing, or grounding, point to the emergence of a simple, natural, and accessible health strategy against chronic inflammation…….appears to serve as one of our primary antioxidant defense systems.
As this report explains, it is a system requiring occasional recharging by conductive contact with the Earth’s surface – the “battery” for all planetary life – to be optimally effective.
Hydration, blood pressure, and Other Bodily Functions
In general, salt (sodium) from salt water can help you maintain adequate hydration and blood pressure levels and since sodium plays a vital role in fluid balance, not getting enough of it can lead to dehydration according to various studies like this Journal of Director of Medicine Association study (NIH) and a 2006 British Medical Journal (BMJ) reviewed by the NIH.
Having proper fluid balance in the body is also important for maintaining healthy blood pressure levels . Chloride which is found in sea water is necessary to produce stomach acid, and sodium chloride (salt) facilitates the absorption and transportation of nutrients in the intestines after they have been broken down during digestion according to a 2017 Best Practice Residential Clinical Gastroenterology (NIH) study.
Boosts the Immune System
Seawater contains vital vitamins, mineral salts, trace elements, amino acids and living microorganisms that can produce antibiotic and antibacterial effects to help promote a healthy immune system, by increasing white blood cell count and releasing healing mechanisms to fight conditions such as asthma, arthritis, bronchitis and inflammatory diseases, as well as infections and common aches and pains.
An NIH study on Deep Sea Water (DSW) confirmed the wide-ranging health benefits of sea water and concluded,
DSW is worthy of further investigations and could be developed as medicated water in the prevention and treatment of many health problems, especially lifestyle-related diseases.
Seawater can also relax your muscles, reduce stress and help induce sleep. Magnesium depresses nerves to relieve nervous irritability for an increased sense of calmness.
Reportedly, the components of seawater, similar to human blood plasma and it’s 84 vital elements, are easily absorbed and utilized by your body while swimming. Inhaling a sea mist filled with negatively charged ions, or molecules that attach to your lungs also boosts your immune system and health, according to a NIH study.
In addition, proponents claim that swimming in seawater opens pores in the skin to allow the absorption of sea minerals and the expulsion of disease-causing toxins from the body. Your skin will also absorb and replenish the all-important vitamin, vitamin D, that 75 percent of us today in our society are severely lacking in according to Scientific America research. But it also goes without saying, to not get too much sun and protect yourself with adequate sunscreen.
Improves Blood Circulation and Oxygen Levels
Swimming in seawater may help facilitate the circulation of blood in your body. Your circulatory system, made up of the heart, capillaries, arteries and veins, carries oxygen-rich blood from your heart to your body, then returns blood to your heart again. If you are swimming in the ocean water, then there is proven science of lowering heart rate and improving circulation (blood pressure) from physical activity.
In 2014, a NIH study showed that to be in water up to the level of the heart boosts blood flow to the brain by 14 percent that improved memory, mood, clarity and focus. The main purpose of thalassotherapy, or seawater therapy, or as an NIH study referred to, hydrotherapy, is to increase blood circulation. Wikipedia explores the health benefits of hydrotherapy extensively as a “water-cure”, and said:
The term encompasses a broad range of approaches and therapeutic methods that take advantage of the physical properties of water, such as temperature and pressure, for therapeutic purposes, to stimulate blood circulation and treat the symptoms of certain diseases.
Wikipedia goes on to say modern-day hydrotherapy employ water jets, underwater massage and mineral baths, Iodine-Grine therapy, Scotch hose, Swiss shower, Kneipp treatments, whirlpool baths, Jacuzzi, cold-plunge baths, and mineral baths. Daymar College has a very thorough review on all the different hydrotherapy massages. One very effective activity includes swimming or bathing in cool seawater which improves circulation by restoring essential minerals depleted by stress, a poor diet and environmental poisons.
Improves Skin Condition
Despite what you may of heard over the years, seawater or saltwater is actually good for your skin. The magnesium in seawater may also help hydrate and improve the appearance of your skin. According to a study in the February 2005 edition of the “International Journal of Dermatology,” and reviewed by the NIH, bathing in a magnesium-rich Dead Sea salt solution helps promote skin moisture.
People with atopic dry skin, or dryness on the skin’s surface, submerged one forearm for 15 minutes in a bath solution containing 5 percent Dead Sea salt and the other forearm in regular tap water.
In fact, the National Eczema Foundation recommends adding 1 cup of salt, preferably sea salt because of the magnesium it contains, to bathwater to help relieve irritation from eczema, a condition marked by red, itchy skin. Researchers discovered that the salt solution improved skin hydration and significantly reduced skin inflammation symptoms such as redness and roughness when compared to tap water. Observed skin benefits were attributed to the high magnesium content of the Dead Sea salt. Quoting the NIH study:
We suggest that the favorable effects of bathing in the Dead Sea salt solution are most likely related to the high magnesium content. Magnesium salts are known to bind water, influence epidermal proliferation and differentiation, and enhance permeability barrier repair.
What’s more, another study found that higher concentrations of sodium chloride in the body and skin may increase the number of immune cells that lead to the inflammatory reactions associated with dry and itchy skin according to a study Science Translational Medicine published this year (2019).
It has been shown, according to an NIH study, that below the surface of the skin there are cold sensors that react when swimming in colder ocean water, which trigger a sudden burst of adrenaline that diverts our attention away from our aches and pains, creating the feel-good factor. It’s effectively a natural painkiller.
It is commonly believed that breathing in the fresh salty air can help treat the people who suffer from respiratory problems like COPD. Dr. Thomas W Ferkol, President of the American Thoracic Association, authored an article published by the Wall Street Journal, in which he mentioned that a study that took place in Australia tracked the effects of the ocean air on surfers suffering from cystic fibrosis. The study lasted 48 weeks and produced some evidence that the salt air was helping to clear out the lungs of the patients.
Not only that, but the patients also showed signs of fewer flare-ups and a reduced need for certain antibiotics. Another study published by the New England Journal Of Medicine, found that there are therapeutic qualities to ocean air that have helped lung disease patients as well, resulting in improvements in symptoms such as thinner mucus, improved lung function, reduce coughing, and decreased sinus pressure.
The NIH in one study addressed the issue of using saline solution and found it to be an effective preparation that significantly reduced the symptoms of upper respiratory infection in children. The study also confirmed that in a study of Swedish military recruits, daily spraying with physiological saline significantly reduced the incidence of the common cold and nasal symptoms.
Encourages Physical Activity
Does your daily workout routine feel mundane? A day in the sand is a perfect way to mix up your fitness routine because the possibilities are endless. Living by the beach or visiting the ocean often, encourages not only healthy physical activity, but also more of a variety, ultimately leading to a healthier lifestyle. Many of the benefits appear to be derived from the sea’s ability to encourage, particularly urbanized, populations into spending more time outdoors ‘in the fresh air’, engaging in activities ranging from high energy water sports to more gentle coastal walks found a 2016 Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom study.
We all take long walks, probably several, in the surf, swim, or at least wade-out, in the invigorating waters to cool off, body surf and ride the waves to shore, even play a little beach volleyball. Why are people more active at the shore and not even notice how really physically active they’re being ?
Well, it’s pretty simple, you feel much better and energized, you are more relaxed but have excess energy, and you are happier, which all encourages more fun outdoor activity. A Harvard Medical School study, confirmed the important health benefits of outdoor activity, on the ocean, or anywhere out in nature.
A study published in 2010 issue of the Journal of Environmental Psychology, found spending time in nature made people “feel more alive”! And, that sense of increased vitality exists above and beyond the energizing effects of physical activity and social interaction that are often associated with our forays into the natural world, the study showed.
Nature is fuel for the soul,
says Richard Ryan, lead author and a professor of psychology at the University of Rochester.
Often when we feel depleted we reach for a cup of coffee, but research suggests a better way to get energized is to connect with nature,
Encourages Being Sociable
There’s something to be said about leaving everything behind and truly being present and in the moment, to enjoy your surroundings, including the people in them! It’s easy to get caught up in your normal daily routine of a busy city street bustling with people, which can actually be not only stressing, but lonely.
Not making human contact, everyone is walking with headphones, or staring at their cell phones, and everyone is having tunnel-vision in getting somewhere on time. At the beach, people are much more civil and friendly.
Families actually communicate and connect, because they loose the cell phones, or at least they should. Friends play. Lovers relate. There’s a different community on the beach and the ocean, one made up of people who are all out for a nice time. Earlier research by Ryan, Netta Weinstein, a psychologist at the University of Hamburg, Germany, and others showed that people are more sociable, caring , and generous when exposed to nature. The effects of immersion in nature on intrinsic aspirations and generosity, simply show that nature and the ocean brings out the “best” in all of us!
The beach and the ocean is an annual destination for many vacationers, where family members, or friends re-unite to celebrate, socialize, and just relax and have fun. It’s also a gathering-place for many annual festivals and religious ceremonies, such as the Puri Beach Festival, on the shores of the Bay Of Bengal, India, and also a Hindu sacred place, where people meet annually and wade and celebrate the religious holiday.
Better Appetite But Watch the Weight
One of the Health Benefits In Water you’ll notice immediately is that you are always starving when you’re by the ocean or on the beach. Have you ever wondered why? The added physical activity of more walking, particularly in loose sand, swimming and wading in the water, body surfing, and other beach activities, has something to do with it by burning additional calories you normally don’t burn . The obvious result is you get more of an appetite. However, that’s only part of the whole answer.
One study done by the University of Florida found that swimming in colder ocean water burns more calories, actually, up to 40 percent more calories, than in even normal or swimming pool water, or from other exercises. According to Lesley White, a UF researcher who designed the study to better understand why aquatic exercise is often less successful than equal amounts of jogging or cycling for people who want to loose weight and said,
It’s possible that individuals who exercise in cooler water may have an exaggerated energy intake following exercise, which may be a reason why they don’t loose as much weight.
That simply means if you get out in the ocean at all, even if you’re just wading, you’re going to use more of your bodies stored calories, and then your calories will have to be replenished. So, you could say, you’re almost twice as hungry as normally and you’re naturally going to eat more. Here’s where you have to be careful in what you eat because of your increased appetite and your desire to eat more quick and easy convenience and fatty foods.
Stay away from fatty foods, fast foods, fried foods, or processed foods and the like, not only are they really unhealthy for you, but also, because before you know it, you’ll be putting extra pounds on. According to an NIH review of a Nurses’ Health Study, for example, which followed 42,000 middle-age and older women for eight years, increased consumption of unhealthy fats-trans fats, especially, but also saturated fats-was linked to weight gain. Go ahead and eat out and enjoy the fresh fish and seafood at a restaurant that was probably caught this morning, but make sure it’s wild-caught or cold-water fish or other seafood (A), and you’ll be safe, because you will be eating healthy fats like omega 3s, and not high saturated fats like omega 6s, that will put the extra weight on.
After several days of eating fresh fish and seafood, you probably want a change of pace in foods, like maybe a grilled rib eye. So, make sure you bring your ice-downed Yeti cooler and some fresh lean organic grass-fed finished rib eyes, (A) and while you’re at it, also bring some other fresh nutrient-rich foods such as organic cage-free (grass-fed) brown eggs and cheese (A) you can cook up for breakfast.
Oh, and also bring some fresh organic fruits, veggies, raw nuts, and edible flower seeds for snacks and salads. (A). You might include some unsweetened whole grain cereals, natural fermented foods like pickles, Greek yogurt, and kimchi, and off course, some dark chocolate, and don’t forget espresso coffee to brew up every morning fresh and fermented red wine (A) for nighttime. And, definitely don’t forget to bring your Peruvian Maca (A)for you to supplement with every day to assure you have the ample energy in maintaining your new-found active lifestyle, and of-course, for making delicious blueberry maca smoothies.
On a personal level, this writer can literally spend every single day on the ocean, and I hope to do so full time very soon. As it is, I already spend an average of at least 40 days a year on the beach, in winter, summer, spring and fall. The time of year doesn’t matter to me!
Can you guess where I am right at this moment writing this article? If you guessed on the beach, you guessed right. I am in a condo that is separated from the beach by only a narrow side street. All I have to do is walk out the front door barefooted, cross the street, and my feet are in the sand. And, I’ve got a beach chair waiting for me. Guess where I’m going when I finish this article?
We leave you with a beneath-the-sea coral reef fish video (2) and this saying by W.H. Auden:
Thousands have lived without love, not one without water….
Are you ready to head to the ocean and enjoy the Health Benefits In Water? Don’t you think your body deserves it? Would love to hear your thoughts, and if you have questions, please leave them below.
(1) Relaxing White Noise video
(2) Cat Trumpet Video
(A) Use these links to reviews for more detailed information and authority studies on these incredible healthy nutrient-dense foods and also to purchase them.