Why spending time at sea is good for your soul
10th October is World Mental Health Day and the aim of this international day is to get people thinking and talking about mental health. Around 25% of people experience mental health problems each year in the UK…and that’s a lot! Mental health problems can affect anyone, any day of the year, but this is a great incentive to focus on your own mental health. Plus, with the skies beginning to get grey and the weather colder, it’s a good time of year to address mental wellbeing and focus on its importance.
For years people have retreated to seaside towns and resorts for their vacations or to recuperate when unwell. Lots of people claim that they feel much calmer and happier when nearby or away at sea. Could it be that the ocean really does have a calming effect on us? In this post we explore the evidence that being by the sea can improve mental health.
Sea air and the sound of the ocean help us to sleep better
Generally, sea air is cleaner and contains more oxygen than other air which helps us to sleep. Have you ever experienced that amazing relaxed feeling when sitting down in the warm, after a day out on the water or skiing in the mountains? As well as the exercise involved, we think it’s the quality of air that causes this.
The sound of waves can also be very soothing to the brain. When we relax, this new feeling of calm can clear the mind, lower stress levels and strengthen our immune systems. Beaches also offer opportunities for daily exercise and vitamin D, so time by the ocean may encourage exercise such as swimming and dog walks. These activities help us to switch off from daily concerns, giving us a mental break while using up physical energy, which in turn help us to sleep.
The relaxation benefits of sailing and the ocean
The sea induces feelings of awe and wonder. The vastness of an ocean offers perspective and its constancy and space can help to ‘de-stress’. That feeling of space and the fresh air has many benefits, which is why in the past patients have been sent away for sea bathing or to stay at seaside sanctuaries to improve their health. The benefits which were perceived many years ago are still very much valid today. Crowded places experienced in towns and cities increase stress levels, whereas open spaces and natural environments reduce them.
There is in fact evidence of the relaxation qualities of the ocean. A 2016 study found that residents with ocean views had lower levels of psychological distress – and that’s not all. The study also suggested that whereas green spaces can be calming, they’re not always as effective as the sea. This is because they often contain ‘stuff’ such as playgrounds, roads, outdoor gyms and telephone pylons. They’re rarely entirely natural, like a forest. The sea, on the other hand, appears completely natural because it’s uncluttered. For every 10% increase in how much blue space participates could see, the researchers found a reduction in the population’s average distress rating (on the Kessler Psychological Distress Scale, used to predict anxiety and mood disorders).
The sight of water can de-stress
Spending time in nature has been linked to reduced physical markers of stress. When people are out walking or simply sitting beneath trees, both their heart rate and blood pressure tend to decrease. They also release more lymphocytes – natural ‘killer cells’ that roam throughout the body, hunting down cancerous and virus-infected cells. One theory as to why this happens, is that natural spaces act as calming backdrops to the busy stimuli of urban areas.
We may also associate natural things as key resources needed for survival, causing us to favour them. Those in the UK who live closer to the ocean, tend to be healthier than those who live inland. From an evolutionary perspective, we might be attracted to the high levels of biodiversity found in coastal places because in the past, this would have been a helpful indicator of food sources.
If you feel the need to escape day-to-day life and responsibility, you may need to consider seeking advice on how to improve your work-life balance or make suitable changes to your lifestyle to remedy this. In any case, whatever your job or life commitments, getting a change of scene and time away from everyday routine is definitely good for the soul. Even though sailing and boating can be physically very demanding, many people view the time they spend out at sea or even fixing their boats as their safe sanctuary. It’s their time to get away from it all and focus on something else.
It just so happens that as well as a great hobby, boating also offers the opportunity to retreat away to unpathed waters and undreamed shores. And that’s why the team at Borrow a Boat are so passionate about sharing sailing with everyone. Sailing is part of our history as modern humans and provides opportunities and adventures that can’t be gained on land or by air.
So there you have it, it seems as though the sea really does help improve mental health. If you don’t get away from day-to-day life to spend time by the sea or sail during the holidays, maybe it’s time to consider booking a boating holiday.
If you enjoy spending time by the sea and feel that you benefit both physically and psychologically, why not use Mental Health Day as an excuse to book a boating holiday? Whether you’re a seasoned sailor or a boating first-timer, you can experience the joys of boating for yourself when you borrow a boat.