Whilst regular exposure to natural spaces have long been known to help to maintain mental health, a clear hierarchy of natural spaces is now beginning to emerge, with one clear winner.

“Blue space” is the term coined by scientists to describe a view of the ocean from the beach or further away.

These scientists in Wellington, New Zealand have discovered that people with a regular view of “blue space” have better mental health than those who don’t, even those with a view of green spaces. Whilst it is well-known that spending time in nature increases mental positivity, the fact that beaches beat plants may have a number of explanations.

Study co-author Amber Pearson stated that “It could be because the blue space was all natural, while the green space included human-made areas, such as sports fields and playgrounds, as well as natural areas such as native forests. Perhaps if we only looked at native forests we might find something different.”

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St Kilda Beach, Melbourne

Another theory for why beaches make us happy are to do with negative ions. The surf pounding creates negatively charged molecules that, once in our bloodstream, give a mood-boosting burst of serotonin. The environments that have the highest density of negative ions are waterfalls, mountains and beaches, and anywhere immediately following a significant rainstorm. Whilst some studies suggest that a negative ion generator is at least as effective as antidepressants in treating depression (with none of the sometimes very nasty side-effects), the jury is still out on whether negative ions can directly cause a boost in mental well-being.

So what should I do?

  • Get outside! Most importantly, even if you can’t make it to a beach or glorious natural space, getting out of your house will do you a world of good.
  • Find your nearest beach, waterfall or mountain – of course, hardly anyone lives accessibly close to all three, but with a little research you may be surprised by what natural beauty surrounds you. Failing these, stepping out to enjoy the fresh air immediately after a rainstorm is a great start.
  • Where possible, choose holiday destinations that include at least one place with natural, uninterupted views.

With regards to an ionizer, or salt lamps (which purportedly do the same thing), I would wait for a little more research to come out before recommending spending a lot of money for the purposes of boosting your mood. I’ve bought a little candle holder made of rock salt and if nothing else, I find the light it gives off incredibly soothing.

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