Blue Mind

The Benefits of Being Near, In, or On Water

There’s something about a body of water that pulls us in. We are drawn to lakes, rivers, and oceans – especially in these warm, sunny months, eager for a paddle or SUP atop glassy waters or to plunge in and cool off after a rewarding hike. Our natural waterways provide us with recreation and adventure, but they also give us so much more that: inspiration and creativity, along with a sense of peace and calm.

Marine biologist and author Dr. Wallace J. Nichols, dubbed the term “blue mind”, describing it as, “the mildly meditative state characterized by calm, peacefulness, unity, and a sense of general happiness and satisfaction with life in the moment.”

“We are beginning to learn that our brains are hardwired to react positively to water,” writes Dr. Nichols in his book, aptly titled Blue Mind. “Being near it can calm and connect us, increase innovation and insight, and even heal what’s broken.”

Simply being by water – whether an open ocean, a sprawling lake, a trickling stream, or even a bath at home – has therapeutic properties. According to neuroscientists and psychologists, the ocean and other natural waterways provide vast cognitive, emotional, physical, psychological, social, and spiritual values. Water is a source of happiness, relaxation, play, nostalgia, and wonder. It has also been said to help manage anxiety, trauma, stress, sleep and attention disorders (to name a few.)

We understand that chronic stress and anxiety can cause or intensify a range of physical and mental afflictions; being near, in, or on water can be an effective means of reducing stress and anxiety levels – meaning, time in nature by water might be just what the doctor ordered. 

Aside from the cognitive and physical benefits, being near water has been proven to saturate the senses. “Here, the auditory, visual, and somatic processing is simplified,” writes Dr. Nichols.

Focus on the sensory experience the next time you’re near a water source. Take in the sights, observing the shifting swells and noting the difference of hues from moody indigos to vibrant ceruleans. Inhale the scent of the sea breeze, rich with brine and seaweed. Listen to the sound of a stream that trickles quietly and gently or the rush of a fast-flowing river. Feel the shockingly cold chill of a glacier-fed lake as you dip your toes. Taste the saltwater on your lips after a deep dive into the ocean. Tuning into the senses of the experience can presence you to the moment.

Blue mind is something that can benefit everyone, so much so that it has become synonymous with well-being. And so, as Dr. Nichols says, “I wish you water.”