The waves move evenly to the beat, there is a salty taste in the air, the sun makes the water glitter, the sand slowly pushes between your toes and the endless expanse before your eyes. No other landscape is able to awaken this feeling of freedom in us. It is a wonderful feeling to feel the wind on your skin and taste the salt in the air. Did the thought of a nice day by the sea relax you? made you happy? You are not alone with this feeling. But why does the sea fascinate us so much?

There are a variety of reasons why the sea has such a fascinating effect on us humans, says Florian Schmid-Höhne. He is a psychologist and coaches people with a burnout by the sea. He uses the calming effect of the coastal landscape and the energizing effects of the sea, for example when you let yourself be carried away by a wave.

Today the sea has a positive effect on almost everyone. It makes you happy, has a calming effect, sweeps away worries and helps to reduce stress. But the love for the sea has only established itself in the last few centuries: “In the Middle Ages, the sea was seen as more of a frightening thing, for example because shipping was still very dangerous or people believed in monsters in the sea. But this image is changing time. In the middle of the 18th century, bathing became fashionable and the health benefits were discovered. The positive connection to the sea emerged from this time,” explains Florian Schmid-Höhne.

The sea is now one of the preferred holiday destinations for Germans. A survey by Statista shows that 70 percent of Germans prefer the ocean to the mountains for their holidays. Many go to the sea on vacation from an early age and combine it with vacation. “If you spent the happiest time of the year by the sea in your childhood, this is of course very positively conditioned.”

But not only beautiful memories make our hearts beat faster at the sight of the waves, the sea itself has properties that ensure that we are so happy by the sea. “Blue and green are the colors of the sea, shades that have a calming effect on people.” A vastness – like that of the ocean – people rarely experience in their everyday life. The sun also contributes to the positive feeling: it shines down from above and makes the sea glitter, which releases endorphins in the body. “The sand in combination with the water awakens a childlike streak even in adults. All sorts of things can be built and shaped. It’s a huge playground,” says Florian Schmid-Höhne.

The special thing about the sea is that we can enjoy it with all our senses. The salty smell fills our nostrils, our eyes can gaze into the blue distance, we feel the sand between our toes while a wave envelops our feet in water. And anyone who has ever swallowed some seawater while swimming knows how salty it tastes. “The sea is the only landscape that you can even taste.”

Hardly anyone waits patiently for five minutes for the next train at the subway station. They happily pull out their smartphones so that the seemingly endless minutes pass more quickly. But the sea could be watched by some people for hours. “The combination of space and movement ensures that we like to look at the sea for a longer time. The space is very pleasant for our eyes – especially in contrast to the flood of information that we have in everyday life in the city or in front of the computer screen. Because the sea isn’t rigid, we don’t get bored of looking at the waves,” says the psychologist.

People also perceive the sounds of the sea positively. A motorway sounds similar to the sound of the sea, but it doesn’t have the same effect on people, says Florian Schmid-Höhne. “The sound of the sea can also be incredibly loud, even noise, but it still has a calming effect on people – a motorway, on the other hand, is perceived as unpleasant.”

But why people are so attracted to the sea is not only related to the properties of the ocean itself. “Deep psychological theories explain our fascination on the one hand with the fact that life originally came from the sea. It should also play a role that we develop in the womb in a similar salt solution and hear noises comparable to the sound of the sea there. In addition, the waves are breaking in a regular rhythm, which we know from the mother’s heartbeat. All of this can trigger a feeling of security.”

The sea can make us happy, make us relax, but the ocean is not only perceived positively. “For most people there is a point at which the relationship to the sea can tip over. If you feel like you are losing control in the water, you perceive the sea as a threat. It is a projection screen for our feelings – for positive as well as negative ones”, explains Florian Schmid-Höhne. As a result, some people have an ambivalent relationship with the sea – they love it, but the sheer force of nature of the sea can also frighten them.

All in all, however, the positive effects seem to outweigh the negative: People who live on the coast report better physical and mental health than those who live inland, according to a 2019 study by the University of Exeter. Recent studies show that other bodies of water have a similar effect on us as the sea. It is suspected that there are evolutionary psychological reasons, because people depended on water sources to survive. “It is probably genetically deeply anchored in us that we initially experience a body of water positively,” explains Florin Schmid-Höhne.

Those who are not lucky enough to live close to the coast and are only on vacation by the sea can take the positive feeling of the beach home with them: “At home there may not be the sea, but there is a river, lake or stream in nature . These bodies of water don’t have the same effect as the sea, but they can help refresh the holiday feeling from the beach,” advises the psychologist.

Source: University of Exeter study, Statista

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