Now, more than ever, we have become more aware to the importance of promoting positive mental wellbeing in daily life. As the lockdown across nations spread due to the pandemic, people found themselves isolating in their homes, with daily life disrupted in a way never seen in modern times.
But whilst this disruption has perhaps made us feel alone, disconnected and confused, it has also brought out the best in humanity. We are getting to know our neighbours, connecting with family and friends over screens and discovering new loves, such as crafts or baking. Many of us have also reconnected to nature, enjoying exercise in our parks and our local coastlines, bringing a wealth of wellbeing benefits. These benefits are particularly important when connecting to our Ocean.
In the UK, you are never more than 70 miles away from the sea and are even closer when you think about the vast network of rivers and streams that flow to sea. In fact, the Ocean is in every part of your daily life, from the water you drink to the food you eat, from fish to ice cream! But whilst it gives us lots of useful things, its benefits to mental wellbeing cannot be underestimated. One study found that those living closer to the coast had better overall mental health.
Think about the Ocean
Close your eyes and allow the image of the Ocean to fill your head. Maybe you can see your local beach, or the coast you visited on holiday. Maybe its somewhere close to home, or a far-off exotic location you travelled on a holiday that feels like a distant memory. Think about the sounds you can hear. What can you smell? What small details can you see? Is it a quiet beach that you found, or is it filled with tourists enjoying the sunshine and playing in the waves? Notice how you feel. There is a big association between thinking about the Ocean and that instant feeling of calm and relaxation. And that comes from the numerous benefits for wellbeing that are just being discovered as more research is being done.
The feelings of ease come from seeing the colour blue, which help to relax and destress the brain. The salty smell from the Ocean has a calming effect on the mind, and can aide with getting to sleep, something that is a common symptom of a mental illness. Many of us will exercise near the Ocean, from walks on coast paths to getting in or on the water itself through a variety of water sports. Through exercise, our brain releases serotonin, the happy hormone that helps with positive wellbeing.
For those that cannot directly access the Ocean, viewing blue spaces through aquaria still have mental health benefits. A study conducted at the National Marine Aquarium, found that viewing aquarium exhibits led to a noticeable reduction in both heart rate and blood pressure. In the Aquarium’s busier exhibits, they found the increased numbers of animals held people’s attention for longer, and that their mood was improved. The weekly relaxation sessions that the NMA have been running are available online for free to help people feel calm and connected to the Ocean, no matter where they are.
The Ocean is the distinct feature on our planet, covering 70% of the Earth surface. It is linked to every aspect of our daily lives, even whilst the world around us is changing, and being disrupting from what once was normal. Whilst this change can be scary, we all need to remember to pause, breath, and think Ocean as we build back a better life for the future.