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VITAMIN SEA: 'The sounds and visuals of the ocean work together to have a de-stimulating effect

Of all the ways to destress, not much tops lounging on a sun drenched beach, listening to the waves and taking in the glistening vista!

This World Oceans Day, celebrating the restorative powers of the sea might be a challenge, but the good news is… some say just looking at photos of the sea can have a similar effect (Michael Depledge of the University of Exeter / Environmental psychologist Mat White.)

Sea staring, as we’ll call it, is one of the most immersive and meditative activities going, with the sounds and visuals working together to activate the parasympathetic nervous system. This de-stimulating effect, where the brain is relaxed yet focused, is a state known as ‘soft fascination.’ It works as an antidote to the ‘red mind” created by the busy digital world, and has wide-ranging benefits for both mental and physical health.

As humans, we are hardwired to react positively to water. The benefits, in part, come from the fact that the sea provides a steady stream of 'blue noise’ which helps relax our brains and stimulates the production of feel-good hormones.

Next to the soundscape, there is the smell. Ocean air is distinctive, and has health benefits owing to its high proportion of negative ions. These accelerate your ability to absorb oxygen, and help balance serotonin levels.

Another factor in play in the ‘vitamin sea’ effect is colour, with staring at the ocean having been shown to change our brain waves’ frequency, with significant restorative effects.

Added to these effects is the feeling of awe that looking at the sea induces, with the vastness often offering a sense of perspective, encouraging us to look outwards to the environment, rather than inwards. This, in turn, can have a psychologically restorative effect.

The natural capital of the ocean in supporting wellbeing is something to keep in mind, now, as we look forward to future holidays by the seaside, next year and beyond.

In the meantime, we can experience some of the benefits of the water from visiting lakes, rivers and even fountains.

If all else fails, the shower is a proxy for the ocean, since it removes visual stimulation in the same way, and matches the steady stream of ‘blue noise’, therefore helping give us a dose of something close to vitamin sea, whilst maintaining social distancing.

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