Why do we gravitate toward water? Why is it so hypnotic to watch the waves? There is a reason every stretch of waterfront is laden with houses and parks – it’s where we want to be. Those who live near the ocean swear by the healing powers of the salty sea. And there is nothing more soothing than a long stroll on a deserted beach .
Lake Michigan Health
In this part of the world, freshwater lakes abound. And although many of us at Sanford in Grand Rapids, Michigan have experienced soaking our heads (and other body parts) in The Bahamas for the medicinal benefits, we can all attest to Lake Michigan’s clear water, and restorative nature. We gather up our clients as often as we can for excursions to the shore.
Lake Michigan has a surface area of 22,000 square miles! It is the largest lake within one country in the world. There are 1,600 miles of shoreline to walk, stretching from Indiana to Wisconsin. And it is beautiful. Gorgeous, in all its iterations and seasons. We do not take this amazing resource for granted – frankly it would be impossible to discount its splendor. And during a worldwide pandemic? The private trails and beach walks along Lake Michigan’s shores have been a mental health salvation for many (including this author!).
8 Reasons Lake Michigan is Good for your Health
1. As far as the eye can see…
There is something tranquilizing about the bigness of Lake Michigan. There are many places where it stretches as far as the eye can see. A great expanse of liquid grey, cobalt or emerald depending on the light and the season. And looking at beautiful things can reduce cortisol levels (the primary indicator of stress). During the past 14 months we have all experienced heightened levels of stress. Whether you are splashing, jogging, walking, or just sitting on a park bench, you can be bombarded by Lake Michigan’s beauty. And beauty breeds a cheerier attitude.
2. Lulled by the sound
It is pretty difficult to feel stressed or anxious when you are at the lake shore. A retreat to the water brings comfort and the tranquil effects are a wonderful tension reliever. And the sound of Lake Michigan’s waves are a natural “white noise” machine. This reduces stress and increases relaxation promoing healthy, high-quality sleep.The waves and the wind are a lullaby. You are getting sleepy.
3. Looking for Petoskey stones
Those endless beds of round, smooth stones for gathering. And searching for quartz or Petoskey stones to collect is a wonderful distraction from life’s travails.
4. Wake Up Call! It’s cold!
Water is a nurturing element and bobbing in a freshwater lake is soothing. Lake Michigan, however, is a bit nippy even in the summer. And at some beaches, the stones are painful without shoes. The good news about Lake Michigan health? According to the Cleveland Clinic, “There is scientific proof that ice baths, also called cold therapy, can decrease inflammation. For the serious athlete, ice baths can ease sore muscles, reduce pain and improve circulation.” Warning – during the winter, Lake Michigan freezes in massive ice walls. Wait for spring and dip in the shallows. Swimming Lake Michigan is for the experts.
5. The air is clear
When the wind whistles off the lake, it acts as a filter and the air feels clean and clear – you can breathe it in, all the way to the tips of your lungs.
6. Natural exercise
A day at the beach and you feel tired, exercised and hungry. It’s all the walking, wading and skipping of stones. And when you are at the lake you feel younger – it’s nothing to jog or jump for joy! Natural exercise can boost your mood and improve your life.
7. It’s good for your recovery
The only thing addictive about a walk along Lake Michigan is how great it makes you feel. Being on this big daddy of a lake stimulates every one of the senses. We don’t recommend drinking the water, but an open-mouthed leap into the waves doesn’t illicit the same “yuck” response as the ocean. And the smells, sights, touch and sounds are a symphony. Finding a passion like walking in nature is good for recovery from substance use disorders.
8. The constancy of Lake Michigan
In an ever changing and sometimes stressful world, it is nice to know there is constancy. No matter the time of day or season, Lake Michigan keeps on keeping on. And after experiencing COVID-19 and the mental health crisis of 2020, just looking at the otherworldly beauty of Lake Michigan is good for your physical and mental health.
Getting in Touch With Lake Michigan Healing
We turn to the water when we need comfort. To heal our aching bones and our broken hearts. How often does a solo person, deep in thought or prayer, walk on the beach or sit and gaze at the roll of the waves? It makes sense that gravitating toward water would console us – our first relationship was with water.
As we look out at the vastness of Lake Michigan, a line from Shakespeare springs to mind: to unpathed waters, undreamed shores…