Do you feel peaceful when you’re walking by the ocean? A sense of rejuvenation when you stand by a waterfall? How about a breathtaking view of a lake from your window? We can often report feeling calm or experience a quiet mind when we’re staying near water and scientists say, this has a positive effect on our brains.
So what exactly is happening to our brains when we are staying near water bodies? Looking at water and listening to its sound transforms our minds into a relaxed and hypnotic-like state. And, the impact is that our brain processes positive thoughts and releases feel-good hormones. This leads to a soothing effect or says a calm and creative state of mind and an increase in well-being.
Often referred to as blue space, the impact of the sea, rivers, lakes on our happiness and well-being is a focus of research for neuroscientists and psychologists. Wallace J. Nichols, a marine biologist, has discussed and published that water bodies can induce positivity in different ways and many psychologists have researched how just having blue space in front of you can boost your mental health.
The latest research has been revealed by the scientist and marine biologist Wallace J. Nichols in his latest book, named “Blue Mind: The surprising science that shows how being near, in, on, or underwater can make you happier, healthier, more connected, and better at what you do” (Nichols 2014).
All of us have a blue mind — and it is perfectly tailored in order to make us happy in all sorts of ways which go way beyond relaxing in the surf, as well as listening to the murmur of a stream, or floating quietly in the pool.
Here’re 6 reasons how blue space makes you happy.
1. Water Induces Meditative States
When we hear the swashing of sea waves, it can actually put us into a mindful, mediative state. The sound of waves has been found to alter the brain’s wave patterns and stimulate a meditative, relaxed state. Even simply observing the movement of water helps us de-stress and create a sense of calm. This activity has numerous benefits including lowering stress levels, anxiety, depression, and improves mental clarity. The relaxing sound of the crashing waves works with the natural rhythm of our brains (changes the brain waves frequency) to produce deep, relaxing sleep an important thing our stressed-out brains need to charge up our mind and body.
“These slow, whooshing noises are the sounds of non-threats, which is why they work to calm people. It’s like they’re saying: Don’t worry, don’t worry, don’t worry.” – Orfeu Buxton, an associate professor of Biobehavioral Health at Penn State.
2. Water Invokes Inspiration and Creativity
When we’re staying near water, our brains switch off from busy mode to relaxed mode. This naturally leads our brains to open up because it’s not focused on the millions of thoughts swirling around that can often lead to stress or anxiety. When your brain is in this relaxed state, it is open more to inspired and creative thoughts. In essence, we are switching our brains off or giving it a rest from the norm causing a better mental environment for insight and introspection.
3. Water Gives Us A Sense of Awe
Awe is the word in the recently popular science of positive psychology. The emotion of awe contributes greatly to our happiness because it not only allows us to be in the present moment but it causes us to think about our place in the world around us invoking a feeling of being humble, feelings of a connection to something beyond ourselves and the pure vastness of nature.
4. Water Increases The Benefits of Exercise
Exercising is obviously a good way to improve our mental well-being, however, going for a run or walk by the ocean will increase these benefits tenfold. Going for a swim in a lake or cycling along a river trail will give you more of a mental boost than working out in a crowded city or gym environment. The idea is that being surrounded by blue space triggers a more positive benefit because of cosmic energy in water waves. And, exercising increases the negative ions (known to have an antidepressant effect) in our systems.
Also, when you are walking on the sand at sea beach, you absorb electrons on the earth’s surface from your feet (grounding). Walking barefoot on the beach also activates the acupuncture points, which triggers a calm and relaxing effect. Thus, helping our mind and body heal from stress.