The Power of the Ocean
In a blog posted a few weeks ago, we mentioned the sublime power of the ocean. We also talked about the meditative state that the ocean seems to bring. While this may sound like some new-age mumbo jumbo to some of you, it turns out that there is some science behind this. A recent study by J. Aaron Hipp examines the power of “blue space” and how it psychologically restores us. Below are some highlights of how the ocean and the beach can actually help our brains, as well as some practical ways to get these benefits into our lives.
A Sensory Experience
Being at the beach engages your senses. In fact, it seems as if the ocean and the beach were designed to engage your senses in the most soothing way possible. The aquatic hues relax us in the same way pale green or blue soothes patients in hospitals. Furthermore, the sound of the tide provides a rhythmic accompaniment that promotes a near-meditative state. Wallace J. Nichols, author of Blue Mind, states that people “are beginning to learn that our brains are hardwired to react positively to water and that being near it can calm and connect us, increase innovation and insight, and even heal what’s broken.” Richard Shuster, PsyD, a clinical psychologist, echoes these sentiments, saying that “the color blue has been found by an overwhelming amount of people to be associated with feelings of calm and peace. Staring at the ocean actually changes our brain waves’ frequency and puts us into a mild meditative state.”
Exercise on the Beach
I know I tend to harp on exercise in these blogs (seriously, though, it’s so good for your brain. Science says so.) I also know that this one sounds like a bit of a stretch at first. However, it’s actually pretty intuitive when you think about it. One of the great benefits of exercise is its ability to reduce stress. When it comes to stress, though, working out at the gym can sometimes be like robbing Peter to pay Paul. Rows of TVs and music blaring on the loudspeakers. Sweaty guys treating the gym like a singles bar. Weights all over the floor. Sometimes I leave the gym more stressed than when I went in. The beach, on the other hand, offers open, natural space and the lulling sound of the ocean. From a stress-reduction standpoint, which sounds like a conducive environment to you?
If you’re not quite up for running sprints in the sand but still want to get some of the health benefits the beach has to offer, consider some mindfulness meditation. Science has proven that mindfulness alleviates the symptoms of depression and anxiety and reduces stress. And while mindfulness meditation has its origins in Eastern philosophy, one need not ascribe to those beliefs to practice it. At its core, mindfulness means being engaged in the present moment. Just sit, close your eyes, and be at the beach. Notice the feeling of the breeze on your skin, the sun on your back, and the sound of the waves coming in and going out. Whenever thoughts distract you (and they will constantly…this is normal), just gently return your attention to the sound of the waves.
That’s Why We’re Ocean Recovery
The healing power of the ocean and the beach was not lost on us when we created Ocean Recovery. Indeed, it is no accident that we are located mere blocks from the Pacific Ocean. If you or a loved one is struggling with eating disorders or co-occurring disorders, please consider seeking professional help. Our residential treatment center offers plenty of opportunities for some salt water therapy as well as a locus to begin a new life.