Today is the UN’s International Day of Happiness. While everyone will have a different view and understanding of what makes them happy, for many of us, being outside and in nature is important for our well-being. If you are lucky enough to be able to get to the coast, you may find that the ocean can have a really positive impact on mental health and well-being. Being in or near the ocean has been found to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression and promote relaxation and feelings of calm.
Here are a few reasons why the ocean may have a positive effect on mental health:
- Relaxation: Being near the ocean can be a calming and peaceful experience. The sound of the waves, the fresh air, and the natural beauty of the ocean can help promote relaxation and reduce stress levels.
- Exercise: Activities such as swimming, surfing, and paddleboarding are great forms of exercise that can help improve mood and reduce stress. Even walking or gently strolling by the shore can help. Exercise has been shown to release endorphins, which are natural chemicals that can boost mood and reduce anxiety.
- Nature connection: Spending time in nature has been found to have a positive impact on mental health, and the ocean is a particularly awe-inspiring and beautiful natural environment. Connecting with nature can help reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression.
- Social connection: Many people enjoy spending time with friends and family at the beach or participating in coastal activities together. Social connection has been found to be an important factor in maintaining good mental health. We find that people coming together to beach clean has real social benefits too. Our volunteers chat and make connections, working together for the mutual goal of helping the environment.
- Mindfulness: Being in or near the ocean can be a mindful experience, allowing individuals to be present in the moment and focus on the present rather than worries or stressors. There are some top tips on how to practice mindfulness by the sea here: https://oceanfit.com.au/lifestyle/5-ways-to-practice-mindfulness-meditation-at-the-beach/
While we are naturally a bit biased (as a predominantly marine-based charity!) towards spending time by the ocean and water, it’s worth mentioning that spending time in green spaces is just as beneficial. Many people do not have access to the coast but may have local woods or green spaces where they can spend time. Research has shown that ‘forest bathing’ – time spent in forests and woodlands – could actually reduce blood pressure, lower cortisol levels (the hormone involved in stress), and even improve memory and ability to focus.
It’s important to note that being by the ocean or out in nature should not be seen as a substitute for professional mental health care, but rather as a complementary tool that can help promote well-being. But if it helps you, which it can do for many people, it’s definitely worth exploring. So, on International Day of Happiness, how about getting out in nature for a while? We might see you there!