The Hidden Health Benefits of Being at the Sea
“The sea was angry that day, my friends, like an old man trying to send back soup in a deli.”
— George Costanza, Seinfeld.
You know that feeling you get on your last beach day of the summer?
You’ve been there for hours and it’s time now to pack everything up and head home. You look around at the beach, the ocean, the waves, the sand – and soak it all up until next year. Instead of thinking, ‘goodbye to it all until next year’, you might want to say, ‘see you soon’. I’ll explain why it’s so good to be at the ocean no matter what time of year it is.
We all know how great the ocean makes us feel. But, let’s get into some cool science behind it.
First, seeing and hearing the rhythm of the waves can alter our own brain-wave patterns to match the same frequencies as when we are in relaxed, meditative states.
Secondly, breathing the salt air is therapeutic and cleansing. It contains high levels of iodine, magnesium, and other elements that help boost our immune systems and clear our respiratory tracts. We’re able to breathe more easily and absorb more oxygen, which balances serotonin levels in our body—the chemical that helps control our mood and stress levels.
At the same time, we benefit from the sunlight, which increases our levels of Vitamin D—the “feel good” hormone.
Another reason that spending time by the ocean is beneficial to us is because of the huge number of negative ions there. Both positive and negative ions are naturally occurring molecules that are constantly in the air around us. Positive ions sound like the good ones, but they aren’t. They are in our homes from sources like electrical appliances, televisions, fluorescent lighting, microwave ovens, and hair dryers. They are also in the fibers in carpets, curtains, and upholstery. These ions are absorbed directly into our bloodstream from the air we breathe. And they’ve been proven to have a negative effect on our bodies when we’re exposed to large numbers of them. Think about how that increases in the winter when are homes are sealed up. Absorbing these ions can contribute to tiredness, lack of energy, tension, anxiety, and irritability. And they have been studied as a possible contributing factor to asthma and depression.
Negative ions, on the other hand, offset all the negative effects of positive ions. They are basically oxygen ions with an extra electron attached, produced naturally by evaporating water. That’s why they are so abundant near rivers, lakes, and oceans. The air circulating around the beach is said to contain tens of thousands of negative ions, compared to homes and office buildings, which contain hundreds or dozens—or even zero. “The action of the pounding surf creates negative air ions, and we also see it immediately after spring thunderstorms when people report lightened moods,” says
Michael Terman of Columbia University, where studies have shown that negative ions help relieve depression in people as much as antidepressants. Other benefits of being around negative ions are that they increase oxygen flow to the brain, enhance mood, kill germs, and promote healing.
And the last benefit of heading to the beach that I want to include here is its grounding effect. Our bodies are meant to come into contact with the Earth on a regular basis to offset the buildup of free radicals in our bodies over time. We hear a lot about free radicals these days. They are basically the natural byproducts of chemical reactions in our cells. But when they build up, they can harm our cells and cause diseases. These free radicals are essentially an excess of positive electrons. And when we’re at the ocean, the sand and water are both naturally conductive materials to help ground the body and remove excess positive electrons. When we walk barefoot at the beach—in fact, anywhere in nature where our feet are touching the ground—our bodies become connected with negative-charged free electrons and equalize to the same electric energy level as the earth. “Earthing,” as this is now called, can help to reduce inflammation, decrease chronic pain, improve sleep, increase energy, lower stress, improve blood pressure, and contribute to many other benefits, according to new research.
So, there you have some of the benefits of heading to the beach at any time of the year. What are your reasons? Tell us your story. . .