To learn that being in or near the water makes us happier people is not a surprise for anyone that lives or plays in Montauk. We build homes in close proximity to, or with views of the ocean, we spend long summer days at the beach, and we search for restaurants overlooking the water. For many of us in the water on boards, we often dream about waves when we are not in them, and when we are away from the sea we are planning our return. Often the photo on our phones or on our desktop screen saver is a picture of a majestic body of water.
More often than not, an ocean scene is our happy place, whether it’s an actual or a mini mental vacation, our connection to water is hard-wired.
The ground-breaking research detailed in “The Blue Mind” by marine biologist Wallace J. Nichols, describes how we are neurologically affected and altered by being around and in the water. And when understand our brain, we comprehend our behavior. The good news is, we can alter our feelings and behaviors by changing our neurological state, perhaps making the case that surfing is the key to happiness.
Nichols’ scientific research shows us that spending time in the water releases a set of neurochemicals that steadies our breathing, lowers blood pressure and evens our heart rate. The release of endorphins that can inhibit pain, serotonin that brings about feelings of well-being, oxytocin for bonding and dopamine for novelty all add up to the emotions we process as happiness. All stemming from the simple action of going for a surf.
Think back to your most recent memory in the water, did you notice feelings of calm, relaxation, focus on the moment, even moments of peace? Surfing is often compared to religion, and for those that surf, the commitment to it is unwavering. Maybe grabbing a board and paddling for waves is the best short-cut to finding our bliss?