There is something magical about a large body of water.
A stretch of the ocean across the coastline with never-ending waves; a large flat lake glistening in the early morning mist; a quiet, dark pool at the bottom of a waterfall. A river is passing by on its way to the ocean. These are nature’s incredible tranquilizers.
This is why we decided to have the Hack Spirit office right near the beach. We believe it enhances our calm and improves our productivity.
And we all know intuitively from experience that it’s healthy to be near the ocean. Now scientist and marine biologist Wallace J. Nichols has explored the science of what happens to our brains when we’re near water in his latest book, Blue Mind: The Surprising Science That Shows How Being Near, In, On, or Under Water Can Make You Happier, Healthier, More Connected, and Better at What You Do.
He writes: “We have a ‘blue mind’ — and it’s perfectly tailored to make us happy in all sorts of ways that go way beyond relaxing in the surf, listening to the murmur of a stream, or floating quietly in a pool.”
He defines “Blue Mind” as “a mildly meditative state characterized by calm, peacefulness, unity, and a sense of general happiness and satisfaction with life in the moment. It is inspired by water and elements associated with water, from the color blue to the words we use to describe the sensations associated with immersion.”
He suggests that we experience this state when we sit near water and gaze out at it.
During one of his numerous TEDx Talks on the topic (see below) he explains his belief that water holds vast cognitive, emotional, psychological and social benefits. “Nature is medicine – a walk on the beach; a surfing session; a stroll through the woods heals us. It fixes what broken inside of us. Nature can reduce our stress; it can make us more creative and bring us together.”
Nichols also speaks of the sense of awe we feel when we step out onto the beach towards the water — a common feeling suggested by his research. “This sense of awe moves us from a ‘me’ to a ‘we’ perspective. Awe and wonder, and passion takes over in water. There is a feeling of connection to others and something beyond the immediate.”
It is no wonder that being near the ocean is a natural choice for many of life’s meaningful events, celebrations and ceremonies. And it’s also no wonder that so many people dream their whole life of retiring at the seaside.
Researchers at the University of Exeter suggested that people are healthier when they live closer to the English coast. The researchers looked at data from 48 million people in England from the 2001 census, comparing how close people lived to the sea with how happy they said they were.
A study carried out by researchers at Canterbury University, Otago University, and Michigan State University in the USA, looked into the relationship between mental health and exposure to green and blue space. Blue space refers to the visibility of water. The study suggested that just being able to see the ocean contributes to lower stress levels.
I personally live near the beach after growing up as a city kid, and I can say without a doubt that it makes me feel better.
Here are some of the benefits I’ve personally found from living near the water:
1. Time stops.
If you’ve ever spent an afternoon at the beach, you know that time does not exist there. When you’re caught up in the waves and feeling the pull of the ocean, your mind loses all track of time.
There’s something very real and raw about being near the ocean. You’re constantly surprised by the time when you do take a second to check on it, but then you ease back into your day because you know that time doesn’t matter there.
2. Relaxation is built in.
Have you ever been stressed out at the beach? Probably not. That’s because it’s one of those magical places on earth where you can’t be stressed out.
The ocean, salt air, and freshness put your body at ease and help you stay in the moment. You don’t have to focus on anything except the view, the sun, and the company.
Some people even go to the beach when the weather isn’t sunshine and rainbows because of how it makes them feel.
Others drive to the beach to enjoy their morning coffee. It puts you at ease every time.
3. Wash away your cares.
The physical and metaphorical washing away of your cares happens at the beach. If you’ve ever felt the pull of the ocean, you know that you feel renewed and have a new sense of self when you emerge.
Even dipping your toes in the water and laying around in the waves can help center you and keep you grounded.
4. You sleep like a baby.
You might feel energized and full of life when you’re at the beach, but when you return home at night, you’ll find yourself sleeping like a baby.
A baby who hasn’t slept in weeks. That’s because your body is drained from the fresh air and sunshine.
Sounds strange, but these days we don’t get as much fresh air and sunshine as our ancestors did.
When we do take a break and get outside, it hits us harder because we’re not used to it. Plus when you’re outside, you move around a lot more than you realize at the moment and that makes your body tired.
Of course, it’s great for your body and your sleeping habits.
5. Frees up your mind.
You can mediate, be silent, listen to your thoughts, be present and feel free at the beach. Everything seems possible and yet there’s no need to rush.
Your brain gets a chance to clear itself and you get a chance to just be with yourself. You might try to work on problems but it’s like the ocean air doesn’t let you worry.
The point of going to the beach, you’ll find, is to let go of what’s got a hold on you, whether that’s physical or mental.
The ocean is bigger than all of us combined and it draws us in without trying.
We’re drawn to that because of the mystery and because deep down we know the water has healing powers we can’t even begin to understand.
Should You Live Near the Beach?
Now if you’re reading this article, you might be trying to decide whether you should live near the beach.
Living by the water, listening to the waves lap on the shore, birds flying overhead, and sunsets on the horizon: it sounds delightful, doesn’t it?
Many people dream of living by the ocean and going to the beach on a regular basis, but in reality, is it all that it’s trumped up to be?
In order to help you order, below we examine the pros and cons of living by the beach because believe it or not, the grass is not always greener on the other side of the fence. Sometimes, it’s full of sand that gets in your socks.
You’ll never run out of beautiful views.
There’s no need to describe how beautiful it is to be on the water. Humans are drawn to the water. We love to be near it, see it and hear it.
We love to be in the water. We’re especially drawn to the mystery of the ocean. We imagine waking up and see amazing views every single day. And when you live at the beach, you can do that.
The salt air is good for your skin and soul.
Ever wonder why your hair looks so great after a day at the beach? It’s because of the salt and chemicals in the water.
Don’t worry, not the bad kind of chemicals. Fresh air and saltwater do wonders for your skin and hair. Plus, the salty fresh air help to clear congestion and reenergize you.
There’s a lot of investment potential down the road.
You might get a great deal when you buy your property and then get a great return on your investment when you decide to move on down the line.
Beach and waterfront properties typically sell for much higher than suburban properties and even city properties; people are willing to pay a premium to be by the ocean.
You’ll meet new people all the time.
You’ll have no shortage of opportunities to meet new people. People are drawn to the beach. Even if you have a private area on the beach, you’ll be able to see and hear people all the time. And your friends will undoubtedly want to stop by your place more often simply because you’re near the beach.
The weather can be extreme.
While it’s really great to live on the water during good weather, being close to the ocean during a storm is another thing entirely.
Hurricanes, high winds, storm surges, and high waves can all wreck havoc on a beach and make it miserable to be outside.
It might cost you a lot to maintain your home.
Considering that living by the water means you might encounter more storms and high winds, you might have to do repairs and make updates more often; not to mention, living by the water means your vehicle and house will be warned by the salt in the air and off the waves.
Salt can destroy and reduce the life of any vehicle. If you live in an area where you don’t see the ocean, you might not realize that salt causes rust quickly.
You’ll always see people.
While it’s great to think of beach parties and meeting strangers, it’s important to remember that you’ll always be able to see other people when you live at the beach.
Even if you have private property, people tend to make their way into the water at all points.
There’s a lot of noise.
Further to our last point: if you live by the beach, you’ll have to deal with traffic and noise all the time. Day or night, the beach is a big draw for a lot of people.
Whether you are buying your first home or second vacation home to live near the beach, you’ll find that most people who live there will tell you the pros far outweigh the cons of living near the water. Everyone has to sacrifice something and to get a view and access to the water day or night is often well worth putting up with the weather, noise, and people.
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