The busy lifestyle of the modern era drains us physically and psychologically; however, a regular visit to the beach can help us reduce stress-related health issues, researchers say.
According to Professor J. Aaron Hipp, of community health at North Carolina State University, “beaches and waterfront parks offer more restorative benefits to people than gyms, entertainment venues and the built urban environment.”
Hipp and his team surveyed over 1000 California beachgoers and determined those who encountered the most stress in daily life saw the beach as the most psychologically therapeutic.
Studies conducted in the past have already confirmed the ability of natural setting to psychologically restore us, improve mood, reduce heart rate and concentration, and promote the sense of overall health and quality of life, but Hipp’s study examined the power of the surf and sand explicitly.
A study published in The Journal of Environmental Psychology, says that visiting a lagoon or the seaside ( “Blue spaces” ) allow people to recover from stress and restore the mental faculties required to meet the needs of everyday life.
However, Ripp and his team found that not all “blue spaces” are the same. The level of feel-good energy that these coastal parks offer is subject to a few environmental factors.
“Mild temperature days and low tides offer the most restorative environments,” Hipp explained.
There is a lower chance of finding the beach psychologically restorative during high tide, most likely because of the factors such as less sand and overcrowding.
Furthermore, people visiting the beach were three times less likely to find their visits rejuvenating if they perceived poor water and air quality.
The study’s authors suggested councils maintain parks and access to natural areas as a part of “preventive mental health care.”
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This is an area of considerable interest to me and here are my thoughts as to why this is true.Expansive surroundings like the beach inherently induce a calm state of mind and relaxation due to the sense of psychological distance conveyed by the spaciousness. Additionally, the reduced visual input, obscure objects in the distance and horizon line at the beach promote abstract thinking and this cognitive shift is liberating for the mind. That is why people naturally congregate to the beach for vacation. It is not for the color or type of water but rather for the spaciousness which provides a calming feeling for the mind. One can also gaze into the infinity of the night sky and achieve the same feeling.
Another way to state it is that the expansive surroundings of the beach allow for shifting of the mind from stressed out Beta mind to mellow Alpha mind without conscious effort. Consequently, those that live at the beach and take the time to enjoy their surroundings have less stress in their lives. Also note that those who meditate also achieve the same Alpha state and have less stress.