Everyone knows there are few things more relaxing than a nice vacation at a beach resort
. There is a calming energy that seemingly washes over you when you are near the ocean, but have you ever thought about why it’s so relaxing?
According to a recent study
conducted in Wellington, NewZealand, increased exposure to natural blue space is associated with lower psychological distress. Another study
shows that individuals who live near the coast reported better health, not only mentally, but generally as well.
Humans have always associated water with feelings of peace, relaxation, and even increased creativity. The late author Ian Fleming famously penned his James Bond novels while on his beach estate in Jamaica, and Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and The Sea was inspired by his time spent near the ocean in Cuba. These and many other great works have been created within a close proximity to the ocean.
The Pasarela Hemingway pier in Cuba, where Ernest Hemingway wrote "The Old Man and the Sea"
Marine Biologist Wallace J. Nichols has written extensively on how water promotes mental health and creativity in his book Blue Mind: The surprising science that shows how being near, in, on, or under water can make you happier, healthier, more connected, and better at what you do. In the book, he describes being near the ocean as a mildly meditative state that relaxes your brain and stimulates creative thought.
Aside from the restorative effects of being near a body of water, vacationing on a beach also exposes you to the sun’s rays, which helps produce Vitamin D. While it is imperative to use sunscreen
to protect yourself from harmful UV radiation, absorbing a moderate amount of sunshine can have substantial benefits, including bone health, lower blood pressure and a fortified immune system.
This 2014 study
concludes that those who are more stringent about avoiding sun exposure have double the mortality rate of those with less restrictive guidelines. Again, the key here is moderation. One way to determine how long you should be exposed to the sun without protection is by using the UV index
, which provides a forecast of the sun’s radiation in a given area. I’ve found that, for myself, 10 minutes is more than enough time to sunbathe sans protection while still reaping the benefits of the sun’s rays.