“Healthy waters send a signal that all is well,” says ocean scientist Wallace Nichols, PhD, author of Blue Mind. We cognitively process natural environments more easily than man-made ones, he explains, so it’s easier to relax around water. And our brains recognize big bodies of water as a source of hydration, hygiene, and foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, so simply looking at them rewards our survival instinct.
When we immerse ourselves in water, the benefits multiply. Jumping into the ocean is like floating in a massive Epsom-salts bath. The atmosphere at the beach is filled with negatively charged ions, Nichols notes, which studies have found to elevate mood and lower blood-lactate levels (which rise when we’re stressed). Submerging your face and body in water can ease anxiety, reducing your heart rate by as much as 25 percent.
Even the sounds of the ocean are soothing and can offer a space for intimacy. “It creates a sense of privacy or solitude, as only those at close range can hear our words,” Nichols says. “The rhythm of the ocean lulls us.” (For more on Wallace’s research, visit “Blue Mind.”)
Find a nearby lake, river, or beach you can visit for weekly swims, runs, or walks.
Take swimming, snorkeling, or standup-paddleboarding lessons to give yourself a reason to regularly return to the water.
Volunteer for lake, river, or coastal cleanup projects.
Guiltlessly schedule a beach vacation. Consider it an investment in your health.