“If the ocean can calm itself, so can you. We are both salt water mixed with air” - Nayyirah Waheed
In the fast pace of contemporary life, the ocean offers us an invitation for moments of peace and quiet contemplation. There is something intrinsically beguiling about the ocean, the way in which the moon’s gravitational pull creates a tidal force which laps, relentlessly, upon the shoreline. In and out, consistent and grounding like a meditative breath. Given that we ourselves are predominantly made from water (our bodies contain about 60% water and our brains 75%), it’s no great surprise that our health and wellbeing is so deeply tied to that of the ocean.
There is a science behind the sense of healing and happiness that the ocean provides. Brain imaging shows that being close to the ocean triggers the release of feel-good chemicals dopamine and oxytocin, while lowering stress hormone cortisol. Clinical psychologist Richard Shuster suggests that the colour blue is linked with feelings of calm and peace - and that staring at the ocean can change the frequency of our brainwaves, helping us ease into a meditative state. The rhythmic sound of waves crashing and receding activates our parasympathetic nervous system, having a relaxing effect which Shuster describes as “de-stimulating our brains.”
The high mineral content of the ocean is also thought to have physiological benefits. Magnesium, potassium, zinc, iodine, sodium and iron provide a whole-body beauty treatment, soothing irritation and inflammation (especially good for people with eczema and psoriasis) as well as fighting infection and accelerating wound-healing. Salt water has a drying effect on the skin, soaking up excess oil; a god-send for those with acne. Submerging in the ocean can also help to alleviate muscular and joint pain.
Being at the ocean also involves unplugging. All of our senses are stimulated, we are at one with nature. Immersed in our surroundings, the daily worries that plague us are carried out by the tide and, if even for a moment, we are weightless. A most beautiful reminder of the splendour of nature.