As the weather gets warmer, I'm sure I'm not the only fantasizing about laying in the sand and watching the waves crash against the shore. Or maybe resting my back on a tree trunk near a lake. There's just something so incredibly soothing about being near a natural body of water—and science is here to prove it.
The book 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 has been around for a few years; however, its teachings are timeless. Written by marine biologist Dr. Wallace J. Nichols, this 368-pager proves just how beneficial being near a body of water — whether it's sea, river, lake, or ocean — can be. The book is more than just Nichols musings and backed by research that confirms how spending time near water is key to "achieving an elevated and sustained happiness."
The list of benefits of being near, or even in water, is lengthy. Nichols highlighted some of these water-induced perks in a 2017 interview with USA Today about the book. These include: lower levels of stress and anxiety, an overall increased sense of well-being and happiness, a lower heart and breathing rate—which leads to safer and more effective workouts. Water's power is so immense that even aquatic therapists are looking to the water to help treat and manage PTSD, addiction, anxiety disorders, autism and more, he says. Nichols also adds that "water boosts creativity, can enhance the quality of conversations and provides a backdrop to important parts of living — like play, romance and grieving." However, this is all dependent on whether the water is safe, clean, and healthy.
Nichols, as his book's title states, strives to have what he calls a "blue mind" or "the mildly meditative state we fall into when near, in, on or under water." This "blue mind" is the opposite of what he calls a "red mind" or "the anxious, over-connected and over-stimulated state that defines the new normal of modern life." He further explains that our attraction to water might be innate. "Our ancestors were on the move — and finding water was a matter of life or death," he says. When water was discovered, our ancestors' senses responded positively, which is "highly adaptive" for generations following.
Bottom line: Nichols hopes that when people are feeling down or anxious, they'll retreat to an area near water. "I just want it to be common knowledge that sitting by the water quietly is really good for you. And I want parents and teachers to teach our young people that ... and tell them if you are having a bad day, get to the water and you will feel much better," he says. You can watch Nichols "Exploring Our Blue Mind" TED Talk.
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