It can be the instigator of terror for many, and rightly so, because the power and force of the ocean is one of life’s most unfathomable mysteries. Before there were roads to travel, there were oceans. Patience and an aptitude for hours of mindless pondering were necessary. Things took time. Journeys were enjoyed.
Today, we are still inherently drawn to beaches. Though more of leisurely past time, the edge of the solid world still has us captivated, restoring calm perspective to even the most modern of souls.
French Oceanographer Jacques Cousteau once mused that “the sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever.”
Another great figure, artist Robert Henri proposed, “Why do we love the sea? It is because it has some potent power to make us think things we like to think.”
But beyond it’s philosophical appeal, the ocean proves to offer many impressive benefits contributing to ones physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing as-well.
The term Thalassotherapy, of Greek origin, is a health enhancing method centred around using sea water with a preventative and remedial aim. Literal translation of the concept reads as “Thalassa” meaning sea, and “therapeia” meaning healing. Treatment centres, which seem most popular today in France, provide services utilising all nature of sea based substances in a medically supervised environment. It is said to stimulates circulation and increase oxygen flow, promote immune and lymphatic systems, improve the muscular system and connective tissues, detoxify, reduce inflammation, and regulate the body’s acid-base balance.
For those of us not residing in Quiberon or Nice, a simple beach walk and morning dip shall suffice – If not exceed the benefits above. We are extremely lucky to have ample coastline available to us in New Zealand, so it’s no wonder beaching, being outside, and getting amongst the glory of nature are things we do best. As we do this, the ocean sends our our synapses into a state of euphoria. The high amount of minerals in the sea, including magnesium, sodium, chloride, sulphate, and calcium, soothe the nervous system, restoring balance and boosting the health of the brain.
This is due to the science of stress.
American clinical psychologist Richard Shuster, has said that “staring at the ocean actually changes our brain waves’ frequency and puts us into a mild meditative state.”
Robert Burton, who was the english scholarly author of “The Anatomy of Melancholy,” described melancholy as being an illness of the soul as well as the body. His solution to this qualm was to remedy sadness with salt water – a bit of a sea change, coupled with time spent overlooking vast landscapes, new environments, and pondering the nature of the horizon, if you will. This discovery possibly prompted doctors of the earlier century to recommend that their patients go to the seaside when all else seemed insufficient.
Not only does the great salty love potion serve to make us happier humans, it is also found to be highly effective in treating skin conditions such as psoriasis, improving sleep patterns, reducing sinus and respiratory complications, and keeping the the lymphatic system at optimal function. The lymph in our bodies likes movement, and the constricting and expanding that occurs when we transition from hot to cold temperatures only promotes this flow. Cold-water swimming activates temperature receptors under the skin that in turn also release greater amounts of hormones like endorphins, adrenalin and cortisol.
So next time the sun’s out and the big blue beckons you to come and play, think of that frolic in the waves like a good spring clean for your entire being – mind, body, and soul.
Top image: Magdalena-Wosinska
Bottom image: Slim Aarons