Have The Blues? Consider Ocean Therapy
I recently returned from vacation to Jamaica. I’m from there and live in Southern California, so beaches and the ocean are quite familiar to me. But there was just something different about this recent trip. It seems as though I was really able to unwind and unplug. Perhaps I made a conscious effort to just be still and appreciate beauty - especially the beauty of the ocean and the sound of the waves every day.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was receiving nice and healthy amounts of ocean therapy. I assume most of us recognize different oceanic waters throughout the world, such as the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans, but for the moment, let’s just think of one big global ocean. Just to give you some perspective on how significant the ocean is, it covers more than 70 percent of the earth’s surface, and about 97 percent of the earth’s water comes from the ocean.
Many of us have experienced going to the beach, walking past the shoreline and letting the ocean’s water submerge our feet. We take a deep breath, smell the salty air, and exhale. It’s relaxing, rejuvenating and even relieving. I used to casually refer to this experience as ocean therapy. However, you should be aware that there is an actual ocean therapy program that was started in 2003 by a young woman, lifeguard and graduate student named Carly Rogers. This program teaches people how to surf and may include group discussions.
According to one report, in 2007 the ocean therapy program was tested on a dozen soldiers at Camp Pendleton in San Diego County. Some of the soldiers were barely talking until they were exposed to ocean therapy.
Go with the flow
“The program is based on Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s [a psychologist also known as the Father of Flow theory, which argues that when a person’s mind is fully focused and immersed in an activity, it produces a feeling of enjoyment and peace in the process of the activity. Flow states flood the brain with neurochemicals such as anandamide and serotonin, the same substances found in antidepressants. Achieving a flow state is comparable to meditation,” according to the report.
I suppose this takes the saying “go with the flow” to a much higher and better level. Reportedly, more than 1,000 soldiers have been treated with ocean therapy, and in 2014 Rogers was published in the American Journal of Occupational Therapy saying that ocean therapy decreased PTSD symptoms after just five weeks. This is incredible, and I really applaud Rogers for starting a therapy program that utilizes nature and movement. But what if you are not up for surfing or maybe prefer not to go in deep, open waters? Like me!
According to a report by BBC, there is a concept called 'blue health.' It "emerged almost 10 years ago when researchers at the University of Sussex asked 20,000 people to record their feelings at random times. They collected over a million responses and found that people were by far the happiest when they were in blue spaces.”
Obviously, a large body of 'blue water' is considered a blue space and spending time in a natural environment featuring a body of water has been reported to have many benefits for our health and well-being. This practice even has a name - “blue therapy.”
One theory is that by the sea, "the air we breathe is charged with negative ions. These molecules are believed to have a positive effect on serotonin levels and thus improve our mood. Moreover, the air is often purer, thanks to the presence of microalgae."
A study published in 2021 suggested that "the sounds of nature, such as the sound of flowing water, lowers stress." Another study suggested that in addition, "walking along a pond improves well-being and mood, and effects can be noticed right after the walk in contrast to walking in an urban setting or simply resting."
There is also substantial evidence that human mental and physical health is "intrinsically linked to nature." Furthermore, the loss of this human-nature interaction is associated with increased mental health disorders.
Apparently all this "blue knowledge" is already being utilized by a resort I visited in Jamaica called Bluefields Villas. I am convinced that the owners did the research about blue therapy when they designed this ocean getaway many years ago. It is an all-inclusive luxury resort by the sea in Westmoreland. Each villa is uniquely designed to accommodate both children and adults and utilize the vast ocean setting to enhance wellness. I am sure there are other similar unique ocean villas in the world and my goal is to explore them as well.
And if you are completely landlocked and have no access to a large body of water, there are many apps and sound machines which can mimic ocean sounds, rain drops, running water and more.
So perhaps the biggest takeaway from all this is to get out into nature and take a moment to appreciate what you can see, smell and hear. Letting the sun hit your skin and getting a good dose of vitamin D is necessary for good mental and overall health and wellness.
For more tips on how to help prevent and manage depression and mental health issues check out these pH Labs blogs:
- Nutritional Help to Fight Depression in Women
- Can’t Get Depression Out Of Your Mind? Get Outside
- The Real ‘Happy Meal’ May Be Fruits and Vegetables
- Is Your Diet Damaging Your Brain?
- Your Gut Might Know Best Why You Feel Depressed
- Just One Hour of Exercise a Week Might Help Keep Depression Away
Enjoy your healthy life!
By: Joy Stephenson-Laws, J.D., Founder
Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice. Please consult with your doctor or another competent healthcare practitioner to get specific medical advice for your situation.
The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of health care and related disciplines, including physicians, attorneys, nutritionists, nurses and certified fitness instructors. This team also includes the members of the pH Medical Advisory Board, which constantly monitors all pH programs, products and services. To learn more about the pH Medical Advisory Board, click here.