The Healing Power of the Sea
By Ruth Osborn
Without water there is no life. Over 70% of our planet is comprised of water, and the human body is more than 60% water. Water is essential to our very existence, but it is also an extremely important factor in our health and wellbeing. Much of our leisure time is spent in or by the water… near the sea, a lake or a river. Most of us take great pleasure and get valuable exercise from water sports such as swimming, surfing, scuba diving, sailing or stand up paddle. Going into the sea is both refreshing and relaxing… even the blue hues of the sea are universally associated with calmness.
The significance of water in healing and relaxation can be traced across cultures and throughout time. In Roman times baths were a major part of cultural life and they were used for relaxation and social connection as well as for cleansing. Similar customs are the hammams of the Middle East and North Africa, the natural hot springs of Japan and the healing waters of the Dead Sea in Israel. Water has also had a role in spirituality as a symbol of rebirth, cleansing and salvation. In traditional Ayurvedic and Chinese medicines water is the key to balancing the body and creating physical harmony. Our over-stressed and over-stimulated twenty-first century minds can also find relief, healing and tranquility by being near the sea.
So what is it about water that makes you feel more relaxed and refreshed when you’re by the sea, near a waterfall or even after a shower? One theory is that proximity to or immersion in water changes the frequency of your brainwaves – transforming them from higher energy waves, to slower more relaxed waves. It’s a bit like re-tuning your radio from hard rock to a classical station. The human brain creates electrical energy in the form of beta, alpha, theta and delta brainwaves. Beta waves are your normal waking state… when your brain is concentrated on dealing with the outside world. Alpha waves are calmer and more relaxed – your brain is alert but not necessarily focused on a particular thought. This happens in meditation and when resting with your eyes closed. Theta waves are even more relaxed – like the deep relaxation and drowsiness you feel just before drifting off to sleep. Lastly are the delta waves which are present when you are deeply asleep or unconscious. Being by the water encourages a change of brain frequency to the more meditative alpha and theta waves. In this calmer state the creative doors of your mind are opened. Instead of searching for solutions to challenges, you allow them to effortlessly float to the surface of your mind.
Another scientific explanation for the calm we feel when we are in or by the sea is the higher concentration of negative ions in these places. Despite the name, negative ions are the ones that make us happier and healthier when we are around them. Positive ions are the ones that cause negative reactions emotionally and physically. The higher concentration of negative (good) ions near the sea is caused by air molecules breaking apart due to the movement of the water. This frees up electrons, which then attach to other air molecules giving them a negative charge. One effect is that when the negative ions reach the bloodstream they help to promote the production of the neurotransmitter serotonin and other ‘happy hormones’. These boost your mood, alleviate depression, reduce stress and increase your energy level. Negative ions are also associated with promoting the relaxing alpha brainwaves that provide relaxation, increased creative thinking and feelings of happiness.
Our modern lives are filled with constant sensory stimulation, so being in or around the sea is a great way to give your brain a chance to rest. There are also various water-based therapies that enhance the healing, calming, restorative and invigorating effects of the sea. Water massage sessions take you to another world as you are carried through the water in a ballet of relaxation. Flotation tanks help to change the frequency of the brain and allow you to relax into an alpha or theta state. Of course in Ibiza we are lucky to be surrounded by the marvelous Mediterranean Sea. For most of the year it is ideal for swimming, paddling, snorkeling, free diving, scuba, stand up paddle boarding, surfing, kite surfing or kayaking. Even in the winter you can go for a walk along the coast and feel the freedom of the sea. Water is essential to your life, health and wellbeing, so take advantage of the beautiful blue waters of Ibiza whenever you can. •