The first couple of months of the year can be tough for some people.
It’s a time of contemplation and change, reflection on the previous year and new resolutions for the one ahead.
Plus, the skies are mainly grey and it’s pretty cold.
I personally feel very grateful to live by the sea, as I know that being it really helps my mental health.
And it seem the experts agree – here’s why.
Sea air helps you sleep better
Dr Natasha Bijlani, a consultant psychiatrist at the Priory’s Roehampton Hospital in south west London, says:
‘Sea air is good for sleep because it is generally cleaner and fresher air, with higher levels of oxygen which can improve sleep.
‘The sound of waves can be very soothing to the brain. If you relax, this can help clear the mind, lower stress levels and strengthen your immune system.’
The sound of the sea seems to be particularly evocative in how people feel.
If you close your eyes and listen to the sea, you could be in Cornwall or the Caribbean – it doesn’t seem to matter.
Those who have fond memories of seaside holidays are likely to associate the environment with feeling rested and happy.
The sea can also induce a feeling of awe, and its constancy can help you ‘de-stress’.
When you look at the sea, it sometimes helps with ‘not sweating the small stuff’ – the vastness of an ocean offers perspective.
You’re more likely to exercise
I swim in the sea whenever I can from around April to October.
Wetsuits are uncomfortable and hard to get on and off, so mainly I swim with a rash vest and swim suit.
The anticipation of the cold is usually worse than the reality.
Excuses why I shouldn’t get into the sea come thick and fast but once I get over the initial shock and put my head under the water I feel amazing.
I always remind myself that I never feel worse after a swim than before.
Dr Bijlani explains that swimming in the sea helps you to switch off from daily concerns and gives you a mental and physical break.
Alison Gardiner is a GP at Nuffield Health Bournemouth Hospital, as well as a published author.
She points out that living by the sea opens many more opportunities for exercise than being inland, thus tapping in to the enormous health benefits of weight control and lower blood pressure, decreasing risk of heart disease or diabetes.
Extended moderate exercise is particularly beneficial, and this can include sailing, surfing or clifftop walking.
On the coast this is easier to sustain and repeat as it takes less motivation to enjoy exercise when views are beautiful and there is an abundance of wildlife.
It’s more calming than towns and cities – and even green spaces
A 2016 study showed that whereas green spaces can be calming, they are not always as effective as the sea because they often contain ‘stuff’ – playgrounds, golf courses, roads and pylons for example.
It is rarely completely natural, say like a forest.
The sea, however, has the capacity to look natural because it is uncluttered.
That feeling of space and the fresh air has many benefits, which is why historically patients were sent away for sea bathing or to stay at seaside sanatoriums to improve their health.
Benefits which were perceived many years ago are still very valid today.
Crowded places increase stress levels, while open spaces and natural environments reduce them.
Not only does one feel better by the sea, physical and mental health also improve.
The sea really does help improve mental health, so if you don’t live on the coast, maybe it’s time to start thinking about booking a holiday.