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Sunshine and Beach: Just What the Doctor Ordered for Mental Health

June 8, 2016


“All of us have in our veins the exact same percentage of salt in our blood that exists in the ocean, and, therefore, we have salt in our blood, in our sweat, in our tears. We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea — whether it is to sail or to watch it — we are going back from whence we came.”

– President John F. Kennedy

Now that we’ve passed Memorial Day weekend, and the official “unofficial” start of summer, it’s now time to head to the beach. Follow your doctor’s orders: it’s good for your mental health.

What feelings come to mind when you think about the beach? Perhaps you have the soft feeling of salt in your mouth from the salty air. Perhaps you hear the gentle crashing of the tide. Perhaps you feel the soft sand crunch under your feet. Perhaps you absorb the energy radiating from the sunshine on your body. Perhaps you peer out and seeing the countless colors along the horizon. Or perhaps the gentle breeze that cools you down? The list could go on forever.

All of these positive thoughts, feeling, and emotions tie directly into better overall health and wellbeing. The connection between thoughts, behaviors, and emotions is the foundation of mindfulness meditation and cognitive behavior therapy – the foundation of iPrevail’s program.

A recent Michigan State University research study looked at residents in New Zealand and what sort of impact the beach had on them. Oddly enough, those living by the beach had lower levels of psychological distress.

This piece is not alone. Being close to the water, as research points out, has a psychological benefit.  A psychologist from the United Kingdom, Matthew White, says that being close to the sea “significantly improves people’s well-being.”

White continues that “it’s not going to be any surprise to you that people relax (in a beach environment).” Having a calm, relaxed state of mind leads to healthier lives. One example is the Vitamin D that the body needs to produce from the sunlight.

As early as the 18th century, doctors prescribed patients to go to the beach, known at the time as “bathing hospitals.” This was a time when people could experience bath treatments using seawater. This small effect of a roughly one percent increase in overall health for people living within a half mile of the beach has a profound implication for public health, says researcher Ben Wheeler of Peninsula College of Medicine. Interestingly enough, the findings showed that the impact was greatest among socioeconomically deprived communities.

The studies suggest that there is potentially a positive aspect of introducing some form of ocean sensation into overall therapy.

There is other research showing the actual minerals in the air around the sea help to reduce stress. These minerals can help to combat free radicals, improve concentration, and alertness. The temperature of the water has positive aspects, says Dr. Connie Hernandez and Dr. Marcel Hernandez of Pacific Naturopathic in Mountain View, California, “cool water in the spring and fall months provides a soothing treatment for your nerves, while warmer waters in the summer months relax your muscles.”

Interested in learning more about free online peer counseling and therapy with the feeling of being by the ocean? Not able to travel to the beach every day? Join the supportive community today at iPrevail! We are adding new images and pictures all the time to help you feel as though you are on the beach. If you need someone to talk to, our community of Trained Peer Specialists will be (almost!) as welcoming as the beach.

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