Lounging on the beach is a nearly universal image of relaxation. Time seems to slow down when we arrive at the coast, although the visit always seem too short. But it is as if the rolling waves wash the mental burdens from our shoulders. Ocean waves are one of the most popular sounds for meditation, relaxation and sleep-inducing apps. Other water-related noises such as rain are also popular. Studies have even shown that people who live near the ocean report being happier than people who live further inland.
More than half of the human body is water. The earth’s surface is about 70% water. So the sea is very primal. But what is it about the sound of waves that relaxes people? Why exactly does it seem to be a universal, fundamental part of human nature that listening to the ocean induces a delightfully tranquil state of mind?
This question has intrigued scientists as well as insomniacs and everyone who looks forward to a break at the beach. It’s more than a Pavlovian response linking the seaside and vacation time, although that is part of it. If we go to the beach for our vacations, it’s natural to associate the trappings of the beach – sand, salt air and surf – with relaxation. But there is more to it than that.
4 Ways the Sea Washes Stress Away
What exactly is going on when we blissfully zone out at the coast? Many things, probably some still to be discovered and understood. But here are four key reasons the sound of the ocean lulls us into a more relaxed state.
- The vastness makes us introspective. Our personal worries seem pretty small compared to the depth of the ocean and the endless horizon. The eternal rhythm of the waves makes a difficult time for us seem like the blink of an eye. The perspective we gain gazing at the shore and listening to the surf is much more than a simple distraction from our own problems.
- Nature activates a different part of our brain. Whether it is the beach, a forest or the mountains, when we get away from our human hustle and bustle and out into nature, our brains shift gears. We relax. Because our brains aren’t busy with the constant demands of work or urban life in general, they are free to think deeply and more creatively.
- Calm sounds tell our primitive brains that we are safe. It’s the opposite of a scream or honking car horn. The ocean waves are varied enough not to be annoying, but consistent enough to be calming. When we chill out at the seaside listening to the waves, we actually put ourselves into a mild meditative state.
- It’s white noise. In our daily lives, we are bombarded by noise. Neighbors, traffic, music in every shop, our families and co-workers, barking dogs, all the electronic beeps from our devices – it all gets overwhelming. Most beaches simply don’t have as much noise, and the soothing ocean waves roll in to muffle the human and artificial noise there is.
All of this also explains why many of us do our best thinking in the shower… and why we think we can sing there too. The shower and those calming apps with the sounds of waves can help relax the mind, and some beautiful ocean themed jewelry is also a nice way to remind yourself to slow down and take a moment to focus on the feeling being at the beach inspires.