As if you needed an excuse to move near the water, science now backs your decision incase any one asks… There is just something about the water that is soothing and reduces the stress on the soul – but what exactly is it that creates this connection?
Wallace J. Nichols, a marine biologist, believes that we 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,” Nichols writes in 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, published in July. “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.”
Water gives our brains a rest.
When we’re near, on, in or under water, we get a cognitive break because there’s simply less information coming in. Our brains don’t shut down — they keep working, but in a different way, according to Nichols. “When you have that simplified, quieter ‘blue’ space, your brain is better at a different set of processes,” he says.
Water can induce a meditative state.
When we’re by the water, our brains are held in a state of mild attentiveness — what Nichols calls a “soft fascination.” In this state, the brain is interested and engaged in the water, taking in sensory input but not distracted by an overload of it, as we might be with the “hard fascination” we experience while watching an action movie or playing a video game.
Water can inspire us to be more compassionate and connected.
While in the restful, contemplative state associated with observing or interacting with water, it’s also common to experience feelings of awe, Nichols’ research has found. The emotion of awe invokes feelings of a connection to something beyond oneself, a sense of the vastness of nature and an attempt to make sense of the experience.
A blue mind is a creative mind.
Rather than switching off, when you’re showering, your brain switches into a different mode — and while the brain is in a more restful state, suddenly you’re able to make those new or unusual connections. The “Eureka” moment comes at last — the insight or solution “feels like it drops out of the sky and into your head,” says Nichols.
Exercise by or in water is good for our bodies and brains.
“We know that water — being surrounded by blue space — helps us relax, and we know that exercise is good for our bodies and our brains,” says Nichols. “If somebody is experiencing a number of problems that exercise and stress reduction may help with, [water] is a good add-on. Find a river trail and run there, or get on a bike, or row or swim.”
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