How visiting the beach can improve your mental health | Great Lakes Guide

Environment and Education

How visiting the beach can improve your mental health

Published July 11, 2019

Have you ever wondered why, even from the moment you arrive, the beach can bring a sweeping sense of happiness, peace, serenity?

Science has the answers. Studies show that spending time at the beach fosters immense benefits to our mental health. Find out below some of the most compelling ways in which the beach can cultivate a stronger and happier state of mind.

Beaches reduce stress

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Viv Lynch (Flickr: Link)

According to a study from the Barcelona Institute of Global Health, blue spaces - such as lakes, oceans and rivers - were shown to be more effective at reducing stress than green spaces, like forests and parks.

The reason for this lies in the scientifically-proven calming effects we experience when surrounded by the colour blue. Serenity, tranquility, and security are some of the most notable feelings that people reported in various colour psychology studies, which also found that staring into blue spaces can actually put you in a mild meditative state.

    It should come as no surprise, then, that getting outdoors - particularly by the water - is commonly recommended by doctors as a way to destress and recharge the brain.

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Lisa Fotios (Pixels: Link)

Not only does blue space reduce stress and induce relaxation, but it has also been shown to trigger creativity and productivity. This is why many workplaces tend to decorate their offices with blue accents.

In addition to colour therapy, the natural melody of soft crashing waves, distant bird calls, and rustling foliage all have stress-reducing effects themselves.

The repetitive rhythm and non-threatening nature of these sounds can induce a state of calmness, opposite to the high-stress sounds of car horns, and the constant beeping and buzzing of tech gadgets that we have become accustomed to.

Beaches make you happy

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Brand Canada

If the relaxation inducing evidence wasn’t enough to persuade you, spending time at the beach has also been shown to make us happier than those who spend more time indoors.

A study done by Michigan State University, found that people who live in coastal areas reported lower levels of depression, and overall happier mentalities than those living in any other locations. This joy is thanks to the plentiful sunlight people in coastal areas receive, which is the source of 80-90% of our total vitamin D intake!

When our bodies produce vitamin D from receiving a healthy dose of sunlight, it triggers a spike in our brains’ serotonin levels - a neurotransmitter responsible for balancing mood. Serotonin is considered to be one member of an important quartet of neurotransmitters (dopamine, endorphins, oxytocin, serotonin) - the body’s natural “happy” chemicals!

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The Other Dan (Flickr: Link)

Beaches also boost our happiness by helping us get a good night’s sleep. A couple of the main factors inhibiting a good night’s sleep are high anxiety and a lack of physical fatigue. An over-tired brain can have all sorts of negative effects on our mental well-being, including making us irritable, less alert, and increasing symptoms of depression.

I think many of us agree that there are few better feelings than waking up from a much-needed sleep. Spending time at the beach can help your yearning for a better night’s rest by relaxing the mind and increase physical exercise through recreational water activities. In turn, you feel calmer, stronger, and happier!

3 tips for your next beach day

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Image Ontario

Now that you know all the incredible benefits a day at the beach has to offer, here are some quick tips to keep in mind, in order to fully maximize the effects.

1. Disconnect

Our phones are distracting, and connect us to our everyday work and social life, which can hold us back from fully enjoying the mental benefits of a day at the beach. Leave it behind or turn it off as soon as you arrive!

2. Be mindful

Take a moment to become aware of your feelings and sensations in the outdoor setting, to maximize your connection to the land and water.

3. Reflect

Take the time to reflect after your mindful beach day in order to harness the positive memories you made, which will hopefully motivate more beach days in the future!

Now that you know why and how the beach can bring so many amazing health benefits, you can get out and enjoy all the beautiful beaches that the Great Lakes has to offer! Check out the most beautiful beaches in the Great Lakes and the top 6 swimming beaches recommended by us.