Standing at the shore’s edge in my hometown of Newport Beach, California, I am once again overtaken by the sensations of peace and happiness. My breath is heavy, my hair is dripping, and my skin is soaked in salt. I feel at one with the world and at peace with myself and all that is happening in my life—chaos included. I, like many ocean lovers, feel refreshed, renewed, and awakened by the presence of the ocean. And while many of us can go on and on about why we love the ocean, there’s a perfectly good scientific explanation as to why that is.
The ocean has always been my remedy for relieving tension, stress, and anxiety. As soon as I jump in my worries are lost. Since moving away from my family home in California, it has been imperative that I live no further than a bike ride away from the beach. I need easy access to the water at all times.
When I truly began comprehending the healing power of the ocean, I couldn’t help but notice how many others felt the same way I did. Surfers, swimmers, kids with a grin from ear to ear… it became apparent that the ocean serves as medicine for many. All of this inspired me to discover just how science plays a part in our love for the sea.
Scientists have been able to delve into the depths of the human brain to help understand why we do what we do. Advancements made in recent years have allowed us to study and expand what we know about human perception, emotions, empathy, creativity, health, healing, and, in this case, our relationship with the water.
Marine biologist Wallace J. Nichols believes that we all have a “blue mind that is a mildly meditative state characterized by calm, peacefulness, unity, and a sense of general happiness and satisfaction with life in the moment.” According to Wallace, this is triggered when we’re in or near water.
“We are beginning to learn that our brains are hardwired to react positively to water and that being near it can calm and connect us, increase innovation and insight, and even heal what’s broken,” Nichols continued. “We have a blue mind, and it’s perfectly tailored to make us happy in all sorts of ways that go way beyond relaxing in the surf, listening to the murmur of a stream, or floating quietly in a pool.”