Don’t Forget Your “Vitamin Sea”

By Ella Sadikman

December 2021

Why Should We Connect With the Ocean?

Remember that feeling of standing on the beach, toes in the water, looking out at the horizon in search of the coast that laid on the other side of all that ocean? We could never see it, but we knew it was there. I’m betting that someone else stood on that far away coast looking towards you, wondering who else they were connected to when they stood with their feet in the same water as yours.

It turns out that we are connected in more ways than we think when it comes to the ocean and to each other. When you set foot in the ocean, you join an immense ecosystem that is responsible for helping us keep the Earth healthy. You become connected with every organism that lives in and uses the sea to keep themselves alive and well, including a community of humans that values the oceans too. We can use the ocean for so many wonderful things ranging from a food source to a recreation spot, to a learning opportunity. The sea gives us many ways to keep ourselves healthy, and it is important to take advantage of all of the ways we can take care of ourselves while staying connected with nature and with each other.

Here’s to Health!

people exploring tidepools
People exploring the tidepools in Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary as the sun begins to set over the shore. Photo: Sierra Rose Garcia/2019 Get Into Your Sanctuary photo contest submission.

In order to feel healthy, we must prioritize all areas of our overall health. There are many key pieces that make up our wellbeing, each of which can be supported by national marine sanctuaries. Physical health and mental health are two big categories, under which fall emotional health and wellness too.

Physical activity is one of the best ways to take care of ourselves and there are many ways to keep ourselves feeling physically good. Particularly, marine sanctuaries give us opportunities to keep our bodies strong and healthy. In marine sanctuaries we can hike, swim, bike, surf, and pretty much do any activity that involves getting active outside. Being active gets our heart rates up, improving cardiovascular health and blood flow to the rest of the body. An immediate benefit of being active includes a healthy brain with improved cognition. In the long term, staying physically fit helps decrease risk for illness and injury, and just makes us feel great so we can live a longer, happier life.

Physical health is directly related to mental health, which is just as important when it comes to our wellbeing. Being active reduces our risk for depression and anxiety and helps us sleep better. Studies have also shown that being in nature increases mental capacity along with attention and focus for a healthier brain. This browser provides scientific evidence for and illustrates the relationships between health conditions and ecosystem services.

The distractions of normal life can often have a negative impact on our mental health, and national marine sanctuaries are the perfect place to set down the tech and get connected with the world around us. Sanctuaries are a great escape from the speed of work, school, and technology and can help us appreciate our Earth. Gratitude, mindfulness, and focus on positivity are important practices that remind us to appreciate what we have and can contribute to a positive outlook. And guess what? Having a positive outlook actually contributes to better physical health too! This means that a healthy body equals a healthy mind, and a healthy mind equals a healthy body.

Where to Jump In

people jumping off a rock into the ocean
Jumpers excitedly entering the ocean in Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary. Photo: Anna Mikkelson/2021 Get Into Your Sanctuary photo contest submission

Your national marine sanctuaries are amazing places to take care of ourselves mentally and physically. You can swim in most sanctuaries, just make sure to check the information for your location along with the wildlife viewing guidelines before diving in. Some of the best sanctuaries for paddle sports include Mallows Bay, Monterey Bay, and Thunder Bay, and don’t forget about the incredible lighthouses along the way. This is just a short list of the many activities available in marine sanctuaries, each of which contribute to a healthy lifestyle.

Giving Back

kayaks pulled up along a shoreline while people pick up trash
Kayakers cleaning up the shores in Mallows Bay National Marine Sanctuary. Photo: NOAA/ David Ruck.

So, what can we do to give back to the beautiful marine sanctuaries that give so much to us? There are many incredible volunteer opportunities where we can take care of our outdoor spaces. Now more than ever, it’s time to take action to help the Earth in any way that we can.

In these unprecedented times, it’s important to stay connected to nature and to each other. Becoming a part of a community that cares about the wellbeing of the environment is another way for us to take care of ourselves. Feeling a sense of community creates a symbiotic relationship between ourselves and the people around us. Getting together, whether that be for a short hike or a beach cleanup promotes the health of our sanctuaries and of ourselves. Here’s to giving back, getting outside, and taking care of ourselves and our marine sanctuaries!

Ella Sadikman is a Virtual Student Federal Service recreation and tourism intern with NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries.