While the Mammalian Diving Reflex addresses how your body responds to water, it does not examine directly how humans psychologically respond to water. A marine biologist named Wallace J. Nichols studied humans' attraction to water in his 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."
He states, “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."
The simple act of gazing out at water is calming and can induce a meditative state. If you imagine yourself on a relaxing vacation, it most likely involves a body of water (the beach, swimming in a lake, boating, or even a cruise).Research shows that being near water lowers stress levels, reduces anxiety, promotes mental clarity, as well as improves sleep quality.
When you couple the bodily and psychological responses to water, you can begin to see why putting kids in or near water will relax them and turn their moods around.
Parents all have those days. It might be that the 10 pairs of leggings you pull from the clean laundry are not the ones your four-year-old wants to wear today; maybe the baby has been teething for the past three days and it's been hard on both of you; or maybe it's been a good day but your tired kid is having a hard time with the last hour before bedtime. Whatever the scenario, moods and behaviors of kids (and adults) can be challenging, but you have a go-to remedy in your back pocket.
Bath time, running through the sprinklers, swimming, playing in the rain, splashing in puddles, exploring a brook or stream, or simply playing with water in the sink are quick and easy ideas that can help you and your kids. If your kids are at the age where putting their faces in water is not within their comfort zone, remember that there are significant psychological benefits to being around water.Mixing bowls and a few tools are quick and easy ways to engage your little one with water (this may be something that could give you a few moments of rest as well). Bath time is often a pre-bedtime routine because of the relaxing quality of water, but it can also be a morning activity if you need to reset the mood and trajectory of a day.
In the end, the wise advice of putting your kids in water to change a mood or calm a child down is a science-backed trick that works. If your child is struggling, you now have one more tool in your parenting tool belt. If you, as the parent, are struggling with your day, remember to splash a bit of cool water on your face, take a few deep breaths, and try and reset your day. You got this.
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