How To Harness the Mental Health Benefits of the Ocean Through Ecopsychology


It’s easy to forget that the ocean is right next to us when we live in Santa Barbara. We get used to it, but in getting too used to the ocean can cause us to take for granted the abundance of benefits it brings us. People all over the world come here to experience what is in our own backyard, but even then they may not be fully aware of how much the ocean gives us.

person wearing black pants and top standing on wallWallace J Nichols, author of Blue Mind: The Surprising Science That Shows How Being Near, In, On, or Under Water Can Make You Happier, Healthier, More Connected, and Better at What You Do, writes that just being close to water has been scientifically proven to promote mental health and happiness. Water has been used by therapists to help people manage PTSD, addiction, anxiety disorders, and more. The term “blue mind” is used to refer to a slight meditative state we tend to naturally slip into while in, near, or under water. Whether you are walking along the shoreline or actually out on the water, you can achieve blue mind and the many benefits that it brings.

While this state of mind can be achieved with any body of water, some things are unique to the ocean. Among these is surfing, and Antioch Alumni Karoline Fosse created a capstone project highlighting the numerous mental health benefits associated with surfing. She created a video in which she interviewed local surfer Kevin Tran, who talks about the positive impact surfing has on his life.

Karoline mentions ecopsychology, a branch of psychology that links mental health to our environment. It has grown from an understanding that there is a coexisting relationship between humans and nature, and that relationship can be very healing. Ecopsychology is a field that covers psychological care and taking action for the environment. Combining the desire for a healthy psyche with the desire to be of service in this world leads to tremendous benefits. With its many ecosystems, Santa Barbara is a perfect place to put this concept into action. And as Karoline’s capstone suggests, surfing is a great way to do so.

Even after a single surf session, you are likely to find yourself feeling extremely relaxed, confident and blissed out. The mindset you’re in post surfing can be addicting and you may find yourself deeply craving to be out on the water. Those who surf regularly often find themselves absolutely in love with it; it becomes a religion, a second home, and a way of life. Unfortunately, as climate change continues to affect our planet, rising sea levels may cause beloved surf spots to disappear.

silhouette of woman lying on surfboard at the seaIf you are looking for a way to cultivate more happiness in your life, and also contributing to the well-being of our planet, give surfing a try! After the ocean gives you it’s best waves, consider taking action to preserve those waves. If everyone does what they can, like keeping lights off during the day, unplugging appliances when they’re not in use, and pursuing political change in favor of our environment, then changes can occur. By taking care of our planet we can continue to reap the amazing benefits that surfing and nature brings us.

It feels good to be mentally healthy and to make a difference. Fortunately, both can be achieved in our own beautiful backyard of Santa Barbara.


About Author


Rachel Sersland

Rachel Sersland was born in Santa Barbara but grew up in multiple cities around Southern California, only then returned to Santa Barbara to pursue a bachelors degree. Currently an undergraduate student at Antioch University, her educational goals are tailored to pursuing a career in Psychology. Happiest being active and creative, her favorite activities are surfing, practicing yoga, writing and creating artwork.

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