A day at the beach is one of the cherished rites of a Maine summer. Visitors and residents trek to the state’s numerous sandy beaches to splash in the chilly water and soak up the warmth of the sun.
Here’s even more reason to make another trip to the beach before summer ends: Being at the ocean can improve your health.
Being close to water, especially the waves of the ocean, relieves stress. The ebb and flow of waves de-stimulate the brain, Richard Shuster, a clinical psychologist, recently told NBC News. This allows us to relax and focus on the rhythmic sounds and sight of waves. The repetitive action of the waves is more pleasing to our brains than random, unexpected noise and visuals that typically fill our days.
“Staring at the ocean actually changes our brain waves’ frequency and puts us into a mild meditative state,” Shuster said. This explains why the sounds of waves are used in relaxation therapy and as a sleep aid.
Just be sure to put your phone away, so the calming effect isn’t interrupted.
Water is also calming because it is blue. “The color blue has been found by an overwhelming amount of people to be associated with feelings of calm and peace,” says Shuster.
The color blue also boosts creativity, according to a study by researchers at the University of British Columbia. Red, on the other hand, improved performance on detail-oriented tasks.
The ocean air has positive effects, too. Oxygen atoms at the ocean and waterfalls have an extra electron. These so-called negative ions contribute to the ocean’s soothing effect. Negative ion therapy may be effective in reducing the effects of seasonal affective disorder, according to a study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.
Putting your feet in the sand, or letting it run through your fingers is also relaxing.
The sun is also beneficial, in limited supply. You can absorb your daily dose of vitamin D in 10 minutes at the beach on a sunny day. Vitamin D is essential to absorb calcium, which promotes bone health and growth. Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to several types of cancer, depression, heart disease and other health problems.
People also tend to be active at the beach, whether swimming, surfing, walking or playing games on the sand, so a coastal outing can help with weight loss and general fitness.
If you can afford to make your beach time permanent, researchers in England found that living close to the ocean was associated with better health, both physical and mental. Researchers factored into their analysis that wealthier people, who had access to better health care, were more likely to live on the coast. Another British study that analyzed census data found that the positive health effects of living near the coast were most pronounced for lower socio-economic communities.
Summer in Maine slips by too fast. But it’s not too late for a trip, or another trip, to the beach before schools starts and temperatures fall. Your mind and body will be better off for it.