Science Shows How A Trip To The Beach Changes Your Brain - SACAP
Applied Psychology

Science Shows How a Trip to the Beach Changes Your Brain

Nov 09, 2023
Young man at the beach with arms outstretched enjoying the sunrise

Few things say “summer” quite like a trip to the beach. It turns out that spending time at the sea isn’t just good sand and sunshine time. It also yields significant psychological benefits for your mental health. Psychologists say time spent at the seaside does the mind (and body) good. Here’s how to best reap the benefits of all that “vitamin sea” and maximise your beach benefits.

Location, Location, Location!

Analysis of census data collected in an England-based study revealed a positive association between health and wellbeing and living on the coast. Another study was conducted by researchers at the Graduate School of Maritime Sciences in Japan. It found that compared with inlanders, seaside dwellers show higher positive psychological effects thanks to their proximity to the ocean. This was particularly true for elderly coastal residents. As a result of where they live, seaside dwellers have been found to be more relaxed and feel calmer. They tend to be physically more active, breathe in more fresh air and have a daily dose of vitamin D. Saltwater swimming has also been found to relax muscles, enhance immunity, and boost circulation.

“Where you live can impact your mental wellbeing.”

The results led the researchers to conclude that human psychology and behaviour also depend on the environment’s characteristics. And thus, not only impacted by the current social stimulus. Accordingly, they put forward, that: “We should consider the value of leisurely visits to the seaside to promote public health and well-being

How Does the Beach Boost Your Mood?

Clinical Psychologist, Richard Shuster, reports that staring at the ocean changes our brain waves’ frequency. And puts us into a mild meditative state. Ergo, the relaxing effect on the senses when we watch the swell’s ebb and flow.

A study by researchers from Harvard, the University of Massachusetts Medical Schools, and the German Bender Institute of Neuroimaging, showed that regular meditation significantly changes the brain. Specifically, it changes the grey matter concentration in the brain regions associated with learning and memory processes, emotion regulation, and perspective-taking. Furthermore, according to psychologists, listening to the waves activates the parasympathetic nervous system. This slows us down, allowing us to relax and feel more engaged.

The smell of the ocean breeze also contributes to a soothed state. Which may have something to do with the negative ions in the air that we’re breathing in. These oxygen atoms have an extra electron and occur in places like waterfalls and the ocean. Studies even suggest that negative ion therapy could be used to treat symptoms of seasonal affective disorder.

Add to this the colour blue, which is unanimously associated with feelings of peace and calm. One study even found that blue is linked to a boost in creativity.

Reap Your Beach Benefits

Mindful meditation helps us re-centre ourselves and truly be in the moment. And spending time on the beach can activate mindfulness. Sitting on the beach is a great place to help slow you down and bring you back to the present moment. Watching and hearing waves, feeling the sand, and smelling the sea spray, all assist in focusing your attention on the here and now. Alternatively, swimming in the sea automatically also draws you into the present moment. Swimming immerses all your senses – the colour, feel and sound of the water around you, its taste and smell…

To stay in the zone, while you’re at the beach, say goodbye to social media. Capture the moment in your mind’s eye instead of posting it for all to see. Then, close your eyes and listen to the ocean waves rolling in and out. If you’re getting alerts from your phone, turn them off. Otherwise, they’re going to detract from the experience.

Above all, be aware of your senses. Focus on how your body feels warm from the rays of the sun. Pay attention to what it feels like to have your feet in the sand. Breathe deeply and smell the ocean air. Be purposefully present and experience the moment you’re in. And in that moment, reconnect with yourself.

Understanding the Human Mind

Are you interested in delving deeper into the fascinating subject of human psychology? Consider studying an Applied Psychology Course at SACAP. SACAP courses are designed to teach you invaluable skills that can be employed in several careers. For more information, enquire now.

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