06 Jun Get Off Screens And Connect With Our Blue Planet, For World Ocean Day
When we spend too much time on screens we become disconnected from the world about us, particularly our natural spaces which bring us so much physical and mental health benefits. In the week of World Ocean Day we want to encourage you to get off screens and reconnect with oceans, seas and open water.
We’re all familiar with the benefits of green spaces for our mental health, but have you ever considered the impacts of blue spaces? There is something so serene – so grounding – about large bodies of water. In fact, one study found that people living nearer to large lakes were less likely to be hospitalised for anxiety or mood disorders. This suggests that merely being around large bodies of water can have a protective effect on our mental health.
Whether walking beside a river, a lake, or the sea, many people find that the water has a soothing effect on them. At times when we may be feeling stressed, lethargic, or that our mental health is dipping, making a decision to get off screens and connect with the sea can be extremely powerful.
A University of Exeter study found that low income households with closer proximity to the sea showed better mental health than those living further from the ocean. One possible explanation for this was that living near the sea was found to mitigate certain health issues – for example, sea air promotes respiratory health and stimulates the immune system. And having fewer physical health problems significantly lowers your risk of developing mental health issues.
If you are someone who cannot be near water without wanting to dive in, you’ll be pleased to hear that wild swimming is great for your mental health too. Marine biologist Wallace J Nichols hypothesised the ‘blue mind’: the sense of meditative serenity we feel underwater. Essentially, it is the ‘antidote’ to the stressed, chaotic and angry ‘red mind’. Nichols argues that the regularity of a rolling tide eases us and helps us put our worries into perspective, minimising stress. The blue mind can be achieved when you are immersed in water – either visually or physically.
In particular, cold water swimming has been found to boost mental health, reducing the effects of anxiety and depression in particular. Your swim in the sea is not just good for your heart and muscles; it’s beneficial for your mind as well. The cold will heighten your alertness, un-clouding your thoughts. This can help release and remove any stress and negative thoughts you have been hanging on to. You will feel refreshed. However, despite this spring in your step, you will also feel tired due to the physical exercise and the sea air. This is a good thing! Tiring your body out will enable you to sleep easier and keep you in a healthier and more regular sleep pattern, mitigating the often negative sleep impacts of time spent on screens.
Get off screens on World Ocean Day
We must protect our oceans, seas, and water sources, not only for their own sake, but also so that they can continue being sources of recovery and restoration for us all. On Tuesday 8th June the globe marks World Ocean Day, a day focused on preserving and restoring our blue planet and working towards a healthier ocean that sustains us. Have a look at the resources which World Ocean Day produces to help everyone celebrate and honour our one shared ocean.
On Saturday 12 June, marine conservation charity Surfers Against Sewage is holding a paddle-out protest (a paddle-out is a symbolic event where surfers form a circle in the sea, usually in a tribute or as a memorial), coinciding with the G7 summit, asking that world leaders “focus on a need for a green and blue recovery”. And sustainable clothing brand Finisterre will be hosting #Sea7, a live streamed ‘ocean activist training camp’ to connect and engage communities with the facts and means by which they can stand up to protect our ocean.
Get involved with any, or all, of the events this week around World Ocean Day, but above all – if you can – make a resolution to get off screens and reconnect with our blue planet over the next few days: for all the incredible mental and physical health benefits that time in, or beside, the ocean will give you.