City life stresses us out psychologically and physically, but an occasional retreat to the sea can help us avoid stress-related health problems, researchers say.
“Beaches and waterfront parks offer more restorative benefits to people than gyms, entertainment venues and the built urban environment,” says J. Aaron Hipp, professor of community health at North Carolina State University.
In a survey of over 1000 California beachgoers, Hipp and his team found those who experienced the most stress in daily life found the beach the most psychologically restorative.
Earlier studies have already proven the ability of natural environments to psychologically restore us, reduce heart rate, improve mood and concentration, and boost our sense of overall well-being and quality of life, but Hipp’s study looked specifically at the power of the surf and sand.
“Blue spaces” — such as riversides and the seashore — afford visitors the opportunity to recover from stress and restore the mental faculties needed to meet the demands of everyday life, says the study, published in The Journal of Environmental Psychology.
But not all “blue spaces” are the same, Ripp and his team found. The level of restorativeness of coastal parks is dependent upon environmental quality.
“Mild temperature days and low tides offer the most restorative environments,” Hipp said.
The odds of finding the beach psychologically restorative were 30% lower during high tide, possibly due to less sand and more crowding.
Beachgoers were also three times less likely to find their visits rejuvenating if they perceived poor air or water quality.
The study’s authors recommended societies maintain parks and access to natural areas as a part of “preventive mental health care.”
Source: Return to Now