Science Backed Reasons Why Your Next Trip Should Involve the Beach

Most people intuitively recognize the calming effect that water can have on their minds and bodies.

Over the centuries, countless cultures have ascribed water with the ability to soothe and heal. Ancient Roman baths were a centerpiece of everyday life, while traditional Chinese medicine assigns the water element with the role of balancing and promoting physical harmony. During the Victorian period, doctors would frequently prescribe "sea air" for a range of ailments, both mental and physical. As it turns out, scientific evidence exists that supports the idea that the calming effect of water is very real.

What research shows

According to a research study led by Professor Michael Depledge of the European Centre for Environment and Human Health (ECEHH), and environmental psychologist Mat White, study participants reported lower levels of stress when viewing photographs with water in them versus pictures without water. The calming effect that water had on participants held true whether the picture was of the seaside, a pond or a fountain in an urban square. Another team from ECEHH conducted a study that looked at the self-reported health of individuals compared to how close they live to the water. Published in 2012, this report found that the closer a person resides to the water, the better their health is.

Diving in

While being near water has an effect, being in water can be even more calming. Researchers in Sweden have found that floating in water can promote "profound relaxation" and even have beneficial effects on mental health. In fact, a neuropsychologist team at the California Institute of Technology believes in the effects of flotation tanks so deeply that they are exploring their use in the treatment of a variety of anxiety disorders, from panic disorder to post-traumatic stress disorder. This scientific approach is mirrored in several real-life applications of water therapy. Groups like Operation Surf and Heroes on the Water use surfing and kayaking to promote rehabilitation, reintegration and relaxation for veterans with PTSD.

Why are the calming effects of water so significant?

So, why is water so relaxing? While scientific research has revealed that the calming effect of water is very real, the reasons behind the ability of water to soothe and relax are less clear. However, scientists and researchers have their theories. Marine biologist Wallace J. Nichols, author of the book Blue Mind, believes that the presence of water can provide us with a break from our fast-paced and screen-focused lives, allowing us to reach a more meditative state.

Researchers at ECEHH found that many study participants cited the manner in which water interacts with weather and sound as producing a fundamental sense of calm and tranquility. The sheer vastness of bodies of water like oceans may have an effect as well. Psychologists at UC Berkeley and New York University have outlined the wellbeing boosting effects of awe, and what could be more awe-inspiring that standing at the edge of the ocean and looking out?

Water's ability to calm and soothe

calming effect of water

Clearly, water offers unparalleled--if somewhat inexplicable--relaxation benefits. How can you take advantage of water's ability to calm and soothe? Luckily, the answer to that question is simple. Take a summer vacation to the beach or lake, go for a hike along a mountain stream or just relax poolside in your hometown. If you're feeling adventurous, get in touch with the calming effect of water even further by booking time in a water-based sensory deprivation pod.

We may not know exactly why water has the effect that it does, but we can enjoy the relaxing experience all the same.