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Does visiting the beach change your brain?

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Yes, if one includes emotional and mindset changes as brain changes.

If one searches "does the beach change your brain?" a number of results come up, yet the majority of these are not very credible. Among them are magazine, journals, and the New York Times, most of which do not fact check or are sponsored. However, if this topic is researched in scholarly databases, there is a wealth of information provided by researchers who have conducted studies. These sources provide data supporting proof that being near or on the beach can facilitate a positive mindset.

Origin and Prevalence

The first dissertation on this topic was published in 1750. Dr. Richard Russell published his dissertation stating that bathing in sea water and drinking sea water would cure many diseases. This practice of drinking and bathing in sea water was used until the 1860's. Since 2014 the claim, "The beach changes your brain", has been repeated and posted as articles on the internet. These article are mainly posted between April and August, when the weather is usually warm enough to go to the beach. For example, Some have been posted as early as November or December, such as ...

Issues and Analysis

The general consensus among reputable sources on this topic is that being on the beach can inspire a number of changes in the brain. For example, one study found that being on or near the beach can create positive psychological changes in individuals, such as more positive emotions.

Most of these articles link the effects that the beach can have to "blue space" which is essentially the same as the concept of "green space" both are natural environments, which has been purported to improve positivity as well as creativity in individuals.

In addition, research has found that ocean waves can change brain waves frequency, as they are a repetitive, low frequency sound and produce negative ions. This aspect of waves can synchronize brain waves and facilitate a " mild, meditative state." Ocean waves can also induce sleep that is both quick to come and "stable", as a result of the changes it can make on brain wave frequency. In addition, as the brain waves sync up to the low frequency ocean waves, the brain goes into a meditative state.

This is not the only way that being at the beach and near the ocean can create changes in the brain that are related to relaxation. Studies found that listening to the waves at the beach can activate the parasympathetic nervous system. Among the jobs of this system are conserving energy, slowing the heart rate, and controlling gland activities. The effects of this system's activation can create relaxation and calmness in the mentality of an individual. Other studies have shown that listening to the sound of waves activates the human brain's prefrontal cortex, which is the part of the brain that is linked with emotions and reflection.

All of these articles and studies discuss the impact on the brain by the beach, because the beach is associated with a state relaxation. A study used functional magnetic resonance imaging to analyze the brain's reaction to tranquil scenery. The study compared two different scenarios which both produce a visual and white noise (i.e. the sound of waves). The first scene was the beach, while the other was traffic. It was found that the prefrontal cortex activated in response to the sound of traffic, just like the sound of the waves; However, there was a more active connection between the various parts of the brain while looking at the beach, which ultimately lead to an increase in relaxation.

Journals

Coastal proximity, health and well-being: Scientific researchers conducted a longitudinal panel survey. In this survey they found that people reported better health the closer they were to a coastal area.

Effects of the Coastal Environment on Well-being: Discusses whether or not there is a change on well-being if someone were to live on the coast. The study used various people of different genders and ages to formulate conclusions. The researchers concluded that those who lived closer to the coast reported higher psychological effects than those who lived more inland.

Blue or Red? Exploring the Effect of Color on Cognitive Task Performances: The journal explores how the colors blue or green have an effect on cognitive task performance and how the ocean may also have an effect on this as well.

A Dissertation on the Use of Sea Water in the Diseases of the Glands…: This dissertation is the first published on this topic in 1750. This paper by Dr. Richard Russell states that drinking and bathing in sea water would cure many diseases. Many newer journals have come out with proof against it, however it still is the original claim.

Science Explains how The Beach Can Change our Mental Health: Lists out the various ways that visiting the beach can better impact mental health and change the brain, as dictated by scientists.

Tranquil scenery and the Brain: This journal discusses how tranquil scenes impact the human brain. Discusses how certain environments impact the human mentality, including how it the brain experiences chemical changes in reaction to those environments.


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The Digital Polarization Initiative is a student-run project which allows university students to investigate questions of truth and authority on the web and publish their results. Learn more, or see our index. Photo credits here. DigiPo members can edit this page.