#Vitaminsea, the Hashtag With Power to Heal
The restorative powers of the sea have been recognised since the dawn of times: Greeks advocated for the thermes – hot spring baths, ancient Egyptians for salt baths and Roman emperors hogged caves as their private swimming temples, like Tiberius did with the Blue Grotto in Capri. In Victorian England, “seaside” was a common remedy for many ails bothering the era’s high society, from respiratory and digestive pains to melancholy.
Today, the ‘Blue Mind science’, as it’s called in Blue Mind, the 2014 book by marine biologist Wallace Nichols, is a discipline in its own right, with projects such as the EU Blue Health 2020 looking into how aquatic environments affect the body and the mind. Such research has confirmed that those who live closer to the water report an increased sense of overall wellbeing.
But for many, the benefits of even short seaside outings are so tangible that scientific corroboration is almost unnecessary. Time spent by the water – gazing at it, listening to the waves and breathing in salty air – engages all our senses at once while restoring our connection to nature at the same time. That triggers a meditative state, ultimately leaving us relaxed, more content and creative, and mindful of ourselves and the world around us.
The physical backdrop to this effect starts with sea air. Rich in negative ions, it improves our ability to absorb oxygen, ultimately balancing the levels of serotonin, the ‘happiness’ neurotransmitter.
Seawater, with its array of trace minerals, is both antiseptic and anti-inflammatory. When a child gets hurt on a beach, you’ll often hear mothers say: “Run, rinse it off with seawater.” While it may seem like a simple distraction, sodium and iodine do help sanitise and heal wounds. Magnesium, zinc, iron and potassium help protect the skin barrier, which is why seawater has also been used to treat more complex conditions like psoriasis and eczema. Flushing the nose cavities with seawater helps not only with kids’ runny noses but alleviates symptoms of hay fever, and even sinus inflammation.
When the two are combined with an activity, the mind-body benefits soar. The 2015 study undertaken for the UK National Trust found that people who took a seaside hike slept on average 47 minutes longer, while the people who did the same hike inland got only 12 extra minutes of sleep. Besides, coastal walkers were more likely to introspect and reflect on their loved ones.
And if you walk barefoot or simply sit on the ground, you can reap the restorative powers of the Earth at the same time. Known as “earthing” or “grounding”, reconnecting to the natural charge of the Earth’s surface helps restore sleep patterns, moderate heart rate, improve skin conductivity and reduce stress.
While physics is certainly a part of it, perhaps the best comprehensive answer to why we feel so good around the sea can be traced back to some of the earliest modern-day research on the topic. At the turn of the 20th century, French physiologist Rene Quinton realised that seawater contains all naturally occurring trace elements, just like human plasma. There is only one molecule different, rendering our plasma and the sea 98% the same. “We are truly a living marine aquarium in which some billion cells are swimming,” René Quinton said.
So if your doctor hasn’t yet prescribed Vitamin Sea therapy, don’t wait: go by the water and self-medicate.