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On this planet of ours, water is one of the most vital of substances. Stating the obvious there, but our plants and animals – including people, of course, rely on water for their functioning, their existence. There are various water cycles – in our bodies, in plants and throughout nature. We, or our environment struggle if these go out of kilter. I have studied them via biology, geography and geology over the years and maintained a fascination with water. I also a have feeling of being drawn towards water for my mental health and emotional well-being.
OUR LIFE AND WATER
We begin life as a tiny embryo surrounded by water. The amniotic fluid, is also often referred to as a mum’s waters. This fluid enables the embryo to grow and develop intoa foetus surrounded by a fluid at the correct temperature, and acting as a cushion against everyday bumps. The fluid is regularly changed, removing the baby’s waste. At the same time, it bears elements of taste from the food that mum eats, familiarising the baby with this. Midwives of old used to call babies ‘lucky’ if they were born en caul, ie with the sac of amniotic fluid still intact. This is rare, though some babies do make their first appearance into the world preceded by a bulging amniotic sac.
We begin to develop and grow surrounded by water. The major component of each of us is water, at around 60%. As a percentage, babies and children have more water than adults. Women less than men.
Our cells need water to enable them to function. Our organs too. To keep the blood flowing smoothly through our blood vessels, transporting chemicals, vitamins, minerals in solution through our bodies; oxygen in and carbon dioxide out of our bodies. Our lungs need to be adequately moisturised for these gases to be able to be taken in or removed from our bodies. Our kidneys need to be well hydrated to enable them to effectively remove toxins from our bodies in the form of urine. Our skin – the largest organ in our bodies – needs to be hydrated in order to produce sweat to cool us down in hot weather, as well as keeping those old wrinkles at bay! Just some of the many reasons why our bodies need regular inputs of water. We cannot function effectively, healthily, if not adequately hydrated. Whilst we can live for around three weeks without food, water is a much more pressing demand. Survival is affected by temperature, though it is thought to generally be around three to four days.
So, in order to be healthy and to enable our bodies to function at their optimum levels, we need to maintain a regular input of water. The beginning of our personal water cycle. I admit that this is something that doesn’t come automatically for me, though I have improved over the past couple of years. I chuckled at one of the recent workshops I attended when I was reminded of my feelings around increasing the volume of water I drank each day and the associated additional trips to the loo. An analogy given to me some years ago – that the initial increase in water intake is akin to watering a dry pot plant. Much of the water cascades off the dehydrated soil and isn’t utilised. However, once hydration is improved, the plant – and the human – are able to go into maintenance mode and the water is taken in and used. The plant flourishes – my trips to the loo diminish as my cells and organs take on board the water that they demand.
Our bodies can send us messages that we sometimes misread. One such instance is when we think – ‘I’m hungry’ – and head to the fridge, or maybe the biscuit tin to fill that gap. In fact, it could be that your body is asking for water rather than food. That parched, dry mouth feeling doesn’t actually click in until some way further down the road of needing water. Maybe our bodies have it wrong there with their messaging, or maybe, just maybe we have been misreading those signs and using them as a reason, an excuse to eat?
Sadly, unless we answer our cells’ need by regular water drinking, they begin to struggle more and more. We see the external signs through dull looking hair and skin lacking in elasticity but we aren’t able to see those internal struggles maybe until they really begin to adversely affect our health. Something that is easily forgotten is that, because of the close body and mind links, good hydration also plays a part in such as mood levelling, our ability to concentrate.
So, we need to keep glugging the water as sadly, teas and coffees act as a diuretic, removing water from our body. I admit that I find drinking water to be boring. Adding squash would add sugar, or, even worse, artificial sweeteners. I have a routine – I start my day with a warm water with a drop of lemon essential oil. I have the water warm as this allows it to take effect more quickly rather than waiting for it to be warmed up or cooled down to body temperature. Then throughout the day, I ring the changes with the oils – usually one of the citrus oils, ginger or peppermint and it does the trick of making my drink more enjoyable, therefore something I am happy to repeat. I aim for 2 litres, though I do endeavour to increase this if I am exercising, or putting demands on my brain!
OTHER WATER CYCLES WITHIN OUR BODIES
Apparently, it is felt that the moon has no influence over women’s menstrual cycles. I have to say that I think there is a whole lot out there that we don’t understand and I would love for it to be something that is, in years to come, proved to be true. Hey, if the moon influences the tides around our shores, then why not our bodies, which include so much water? I guess that at present, I will just have to go with the thought that the moon has been found to influence our emotions, thereby still allowing the right side of my brain some leeway in what can be a left-side of brain dominated world?
For some women, water is the main focus of their daily existence. It is their lot, and the lot of their children to walk miles to fetch water for the family. Water that is far from clean and pure, but they have no choice in the matter other than use it and hope that they do not fall sick. I try to imagine what it would be like having to walk for miles in the heat to carry a heavy container of water back home – water for drinking, cooking, personal hygiene and clothes washing. https://water.org/our-impact/water-crisis/womens-crisis/ To have to eke out every precious drop. I remember the short time when we had stand pipes as our reservoirs were very low. Life changed completely when there wasn’t the instant supply at the turn of a tap that we take so very much for granted. And we only had a short walk to the nearest standpipe.
NATURE’S BODIES OF WATER
Apart from needing water for our physical health, it can also play a positive role in our emotional and mental wellbeing. I love to be near to water – whether this is the sea, a lake, stream or river, waterfall, fountain. I share this love with many others as it makes us feel good, can calm anxieties and generally relax us. What is there about water that has this effect on us? It is a combination of the sight, the sounds and the feel of water that affects us and how we feel.
The human race has long turned to water for its healing properties. Could it have anything to do with the fact that our main component is water, leading to a natural affinity, along with that biological, physiological need? Recent research has been able to back up the feelings of improvement as there is shown to be a large increase in the flow of relaxation promoting neurochemicals to the heart and the brain when we are near, in or on water.
Rivers have been, and as with ‘Mother Ganges’ in India, are still revered as sacred. The baths in Rome offered a calm, peaceful setting for some ancient R&R. You only have to flick through holiday brochures or watch the television adverts to see how water – as in the sea, pools, lakes – features in our holiday breaks, our escapes for relaxation and winding down. Failing this, I am sure that many, like myself, love to relax in a lovely warm bath.
Marine biologist Wallace J Nichols, author of the book ‘Blue Mind’ believes that our affinity with water leads to blue being universally a favourite colour. I like what he has to say, though I do wonder if the blue of a gorgeous summer’s day sky could also play a part in influencing this choice.
He believes that we can all have a "blue mind" -- as he puts it, "a mildly meditative state characterized by calm, peacefulness, unity, and a sense of general happiness and satisfaction with life in the moment -- that's triggered when we're in or near water. We are beginning to learn that our brains are hardwired to react positively to water and that being near it can calm and connect us, increase innovation and insight, and even heal what's broken," Now that sounds like the kind of research I would like to be involved with!
He goes on to say that "We have a 'blue mind' -- and it's perfectly tailored to make us happy in all sorts of ways that go way beyond relaxing in the surf, listening to the murmur of a stream, or floating quietly in a pool."
So does being near to that blueness of water give us the downtime that we need from our busy, often stressful lives? How wonderful it must be to live close to a stretch of water that can re-charge your batteries simply by being near it, let alone in it, on it or even under it.
BLUE STATE KICKING OUT RED or GREY STATE!
We can have the water-based exercise to get those happy hormones up and running – maybe swimming, surfing, sailing. However, by running, walking, even ambling by water, or simply sitting and allowing all of our senses to soak in our surroundings we can be lulled into a state of mindful meditation. The more we allow each of our senses to be a part of the process, the greater the impact, the greater the benefit. Lulled by the sound of gentle lapping of waves; watching the ripples begun by the fish beneath the surface; reaching down and letting the water trickle between our fingers or dipping our toes in to the cool water. Slowing down our breathing whilst we become aware of the scent of the sea breeze. Our minds drifting yet at the same time becoming more focused on the water. Nichols equates this to a calm, placid blue state of mind replacing that red, overcharged, sometimes frenetic state of mind. Clutter is cut out, worries are set aside, stress levels are lowered – all of which allow our mind and body relaxation and healing time, yet simultaneously opening the door to our creative side. On the other hand, the water lifts us out of a grey, mundane, same-same state of mind and being. It lifts and motivates. It benefits us if the greyness is caused by low moods or depression. By involving as many of our senses as possible, we enable those feelings to affect us deeply.
So that colourless, odourless, tasteless liquid that we call water positively affects us emotionally as well as physically – and yet, it remains a thing which so many of us take for granted.
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