Why is it that people who spend time at the beach seem so upbeat? Is there something about the environment that lends to optimism? Take a moment to close your eyes and imagine these two scenarios. In the first, you are walking through a crowded city. People are packed like little sardines in business suits rushing to catch their buses, get their coffee and hurry off to work. What do their faces look like? How do they carry themselves—what’s the message in their body language?
In the second scenario, you are on a beach. The sun is beaming down, and you can taste the salty sea air. Look around you, what are the other beach goers doing? Are they splashing around in the cool water? Perhaps they are lounging on a towel with a friend. Do their faces and body language look the same as the faces you imagined in the city? Our guess is, they look vastly different.
Why is it that when people get to the beach, their stresses, worries and schedules seem to melt away? It's almost as though there is something in the air that takes them on a journey to their happy place. And as it turns out, there actually is. The beach is filled with beneficial negative ions (more on that below), minerals, and nature’s symphony of the waves crashing on the shore. Combine these factors, and it’s the perfect tonic to combat the stresses of daily life.
The only negative you'll ever need in your life
Negative ions are molecules that have an extra electron, resulting in an overall negative electrical charge. They are naturally found in places where oxygen molecules break apart. Places with water (think crashing waves and waterfalls), with a lot of air movement (think a mountain breeze), and where sun rays beam (think sunny beaches) all conjure up environments laden with negative ions.
Unfortunately, most people usually find more positive than negative ions surrounding them. Positive ions are omitted into the air from electronics like our computers, air conditioners and fluorescent lights among other things. Those are the bad guys, and we don't want them hanging around!
That's why the air at the beach feels so much lighter than most other places. These negative ions bouncing around the ocean air help to increase the flow of oxygen to the brain, resulting in efficiency, alertness, and higher cognitive functioning. When these negative ions make their way into your bloodstream, they cause a biochemical reaction, which produces more serotonin. Serotonin is the hormone associated with stress relief, happiness and elevated mood. This is why these positive feelings come so naturally when you stand with your toes in the sand and the vast ocean before you.
There is nothing more relaxing (or romantic!) than hearing the roar of the ocean. Listening to the waves puts most people into a slightly meditative state. In fact, research has shown that listening to the waves fall on the shore alters wave patterns in the brain, which leads to a calmer demeanor and proves to be a natural de-stressor. This is why people love the sound of the ocean.
It sends people into complete relaxation, which helps to improve brain function, rejuvenate the mind, and refresh the body. While the sound of waves crashing on the shore isn't quiet, by any means, it's far less busy than the sounds of work or a hectic city street. Therefore, our minds are able to unwind and detach in a very different, positive way.
Other important elements
Did you know that the ocean and the air that spirals off of the waves contains minerals like magnesium, sodium, potassium and calcium? Elements such as vitamins, amino acids and microorganisms also hang out at the beach.
Why should you care? Well, for starters, when they get absorbed into your skin, they can offer great healing powers. They also help to boost your immune system and offer beneficial antibacterial effects. If that isn’t enough, they also help people remain calm in stressful situations, heighten confidence, sleep better and enjoy an improved sense of well-being. Whether you dive on in or tinker around at shore, these super elements will leave you feeling happier, more at ease, and more vibrant.
Now for the proof
Dr. Mathew White, of the University of Exeter Medical School, and his colleagues conducted a two-year study with 2,750 participants between the ages of 8 and 80. The researchers looked at their engagement with different natural environments and found that while all of the different environments offered mood enhancement and some level of relaxation, the beach offered the greatest benefits. Even after factoring in the ages, distance to travel to the ocean, company, and activities of the participants, the results still proved to be the same. Another study conducted by White and his colleagues looked at the health of those who lived close to the coast and found that they fared better than those who did not. White stated that living closer to the sea “significantly improves people's well-being." He also mentioned that spending time close to the beach helps to minimize stress and promotes physical activity.
What about you? Have you noticed this natural mood enhancement while kicking it at the beach? If so, tell us where you were and how the beach made you feel!