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.”
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.