It first happened at a contest in Hawaii in 1996. Isaiah, then 5 years old, was having an uncontrollable fit on the beach. He was suffering from sensory overload, a common trait in many autistic children in which even most simple sensations could throw them into flux. As if by instinct, Izzy took Isaiah out to the water, paddling him through the waves just as his father had done so many times with him. That’s when something changed. For the first time, in a long time, Isaiah was at peace.
“A calm came over him. He was loose and relaxed, and genuinely happy,” Izzy recalls. “He was a regular boy out there doing what I always dreamed of doing with him.”
So can we really attribute such a change to the transformative power the ocean? If you ask Wallace “J” Nichols, a biologist and researcher at the California Academy of Sciences, the ocean doesn’t nearly enough credit for its healing abilities.
For years, Nichols has been working alongside a team of neuroscientists to take a more serious look at the ocean’s positive effects on our health. They have explored the impact that the ocean can have on conditions like PTSD, how proximity to the water can induce the same relief as meditation, and how the ocean fuels our emotional senses. Nichols explains that what they’ve seen from a cognitive standpoint is that spending time outside, in or near water is good medicine for us mentally and physically.
“This isn’t a novel idea by any means, but our ability to connect the dots on the science of this is revolutionary,” Nichols says. “These real-world applications to reduce stress, heal bodies, and, this isn’t an exaggeration, save lives are very exciting.”