why the sea makes us feel good

Why the sea makes us feel good

When we are at the seaside, we just feel good sitting by the sea or being in the water. Have you ever wondered why it actually feels so good? Most of the time we don’t think about what actually happens to our thoughts, feelings and bodily functions when we are near bodies of water. Or to what extent the sea has a concrete influence on our well-being.

The sea can somehow influence our feelings. Small waves have a calming effect and make us feel peaceful. Large waves and rough water, on the other hand, can make us feel restless and nervous. These different wave strengths can make a direct connection to what is going on in our minds. At times when we are uncertain and anxious, things go up and down, like a big day at sea. But the sea can also be a mirror and show us what is going on inside us. We are in a time when there is a lot of uncertainty, fears arise and thoughts sometimes go crazy. Especially in difficult phases, we feel connected to nature and especially to the sea.

Nature reflects emotions, moods and physical changes in all its many manifestations and can have a particularly positive effect on our well-being. The healing effect of nature has been known for a long time. Surfers know the indescribable feeling after a surfed wave, the calming effect of just looking at the sea as well as the wonderful effect of salt water on skin and hair.

Feeling high from surfing

After a surfed wave the whole body is buzzing. A euphoria starts spreading from the gut to all corners of the body. This is one expression of the stoke we feel from surfing. The psyched feeling makes you glow and smile all over your face. This feeling can actually make us high. We experience increased levels of adrenaline and dopamine when surfing. Adrenaline increases reaction time and raises the heart rate as the body goes into “fight or flight” mode. While the adrenaline is pumping, a certain state of intoxication sets in the brain. During activities like surfing, the chemical neurotransmitter dopamine, also known as the happy hormone, is released in greater quantities.

This biochemical cocktail makes surfing a sport that captivates people because we always strive to experience that fantastic feeling. Long car journeys, days of watching the wave forecast and investing our last penny on surfing equipment – we gladly accept all this for the stoke. The best thing is that this state lasts even after we are no longer in the water. Although the adrenaline rush wears off shortly after the last wave, the surfing euphoria remains. Researchers assume that the positive effect of the sea air also intensifies this feeling.

why the sea makes us feel good
Credit: Karten Winegeard

The positive effects of sea air

Researchers found that sea air contains a greater amount of negatively charged ions compared to “normal” air. These ions are the result of breaking waves because when atoms with enough energy collide, ions are released into the air. So the turbulence of breaking waves changes the physical composition of the ocean air and releases charged ions into the atmosphere.

Surfers are constantly exposed to this special constitution of the air in the water or near the ocean. Scientists assume that the accumulation of negative ions has a positive effect on mood by releasing endorphins and serotonin in the body. Other environments such as snow-covered mountains, rivers or waterfalls also have a similar negatively charged air. If the beach or mountains are too far away, a shower at home with sufficient pressure can also bring about the properties of active water.

Ocean therapy for mind and body

The endless blue mass of the ocean soothes our eyes and mind without causing sensory overloads like social media or the TV do. When we take a sip of fresh ocean air, we feel relaxed and calm. The mind is freed from entanglements. So-called gazing at the sea can be considered a form of meditation where the sea serves as a focal point. Scientific evidence for the positive effects of gazing at the sea is hard to find. In my opinion, it is very healing, not only for the mind. The so-called thalassotherapy or “healing treatment of the sea” uses active ingredients from the sea such as seawater, algae, mud, sun and also sea air as therapeutic agents. These are said to have a healing effect on the body and mind.

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