The sea is miraculous. Just the sight of the seemingly boundless body of water is humbling for many. And in the 18th century, the ocean was often regarded as a panacea, with doctors prescribing drinking a pint of sea water to cure everything from leprosy to heatstroke to depression.
While modern medicine has yet to support ocean water as a cure-all, there are certainly some major benefits to spending time by the seaside — whether you’re lucky enough to live there or are just visiting.
1. Sea air can be good for your lungs
A breath of fresh ocean air might be medicinal. Research has found that patients with cystic fibrosis experienced fewer pulmonary flare-ups when they inhaled prescribed hypertonic saline — a strong solution of salt water that mimics what we inhale at the beach. The impetus for the research? Australian patients with cystic fibrosis told their doctors they could breathe more easily after surfing, the Wall Street Journal reported.
2. Visiting the waters can make you happy
Anecdotally, you probably know this to be true. Who doesn’t love the beach? But between the propitious servings of vitamin D you get from the sun, the mood-boosting endorphins you pump out by swimming and playing beach volleyball and the release of oxytocin you experience from hanging out with people you like, there’s scientific evidence to prove you will leave the beach with a pep in your step.
3. A beach day can benefit your skin
Both sun and sea have proven to be beneficial for treating psoriasis, a skin condition that can lead to red, flaking or inflamed patches of skin. Experts at WebMD suggest a daily five minutes of sun bathing to relieve symptoms (if you’re soaking up rays for longer than 15 minutes, apply sunscreen). Swimming in salt water can help reduce the appearance of psoriasis, and can even benefit those without the condition. Salt water can help reduce skin inflammation and can treat acne, as it can cleanse skin cells and destroy bacteria. According to the International Dermal Institute, seawater can mend dry skin, thanks to its high levels of magnesium.
On the topic of skin, when’s the last time you gave your whole body a good scrub? Sand is a natural exfoliant, and can help to remove dead skin cells from your feet. For some, the process can soften the skin, improve its appearance and increase the effectiveness of topical treatments, the American Academy of Dermatology wrote on its site.
4. The ocean will force you to unplug
Whether there’s Wi-Fi or not, being out in nature forces you to leave your devices, even if it’s momentarily, to take in the surroundings. The sun’s power may mean you’ll have to keep your phone covered for risk of overheating, the volleyball game requires both hands to win and body surfing the ocean’s waves should be tech-free. Getting off the grid helps your brain recharge and reboot, improves your sleep and can decrease your stress levels. Why not do it all at the beach?
5. Spending time by the water can decrease your stress levels
There’s something inherently peaceful about the open water, the push and pull of the shoreline and a couple of clouds in the blue sky. Studies have linked spending time in nature with reduced stress levels, decreased depression and anxiety and boosted well-being. If you decide to go for a dip, you’ll be taking some stress off your body, too. Seawater’s higher levels of magnesium can calm the nervous system and experiencing the water’s weightlessness may even help slow down anxious thought, possibly changing your brainwaves.
6. A good day at the beach may even lead to a night of great sleep
Along with all of the beach’s relaxation-inducing powers, the sound of the ocean’s tempered waves is basically nature’s lullaby. Our brains interpret the sound of ocean waves as non-threatening, alerting the body that there’s no need to wake. Thus, sleeping somewhere you can hear the water’s noises can help you relax.
“These slow, whooshing noises are the sounds of non-threats, which is why they work to calm people,” said Orfeu Buxton, an associate professor of biobehavioral health at Pennsylvania State University, LiveScience reported. “It’s like they’re saying: ‘Don’t worry, don’t worry, don’t worry.’” If loud enough, the sound of the waves can drown out sounds that might otherwise stir you from your sleep.
Even more, a hearty dose of natural sunlight can help regulate your sleep and improve the chances waking up in a great mood the next morning — especially if you have another day at the beach to look forward to.