How Water Can Make Us Well
Mental health could be as close as your bathtub. As Wallace J. Nichols, Ph.D., marine biologist and conservationist, explains in his book, Blue Mind, being in or near water gives our minds the chance to relax, rest, and reset—breaking away from what Nichols calls our everyday Red Mind.
“Red Mind refers to our new normal, which is over-connected, over-committed, often distracted, mildly anxious,” he describes, with people plugged into 24/7 news cycles and social media. Left unchecked, our Red Minds can turn to Gray Minds—stressed, burned out, and overloaded. “Blue Mind is the break that we all need,” Nichols says. “It’s about logging out and shutting down the technology, and stepping outside and finding the place that makes us relax and reset.”
Here, Nichols shares five things you need to know about the Blue Mind—and how to achieve one.
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Water helps us relax and come up with our best ideas
Immersing ourselves in or being near water for as little as 20 minutes a day—or just 90 minutes a few times each week—can make us more open, relaxed, and creative. Water gives our brains a break: It holds your attention but doesn’t demand it; can provide auditory stimulation without the need to process information; and, when we float in it, water even defies gravity. We get our best ideas—our world-changing ideas—not when we’re under stress, but when our minds are open.
Wild water sources offer a bevy of Blue Mind opportunities
For some people, their wild water might be right out of the door—they’re living in a place with access to a river or lake or ocean, a reminder to get out there and enjoy it. In some other cases, you might need to take a little trip—or a wildly big trip—to get to water. In any case, getting out there and walking along the edge of the water, or getting on a boat and being out on the water, or engaging in or learning a new activity—like surfing or scuba diving or free diving or swimming or kayaking—is worthwhile. Prioritise water in your life; it will never be a bad decision. It’s all about getting out there and really touching it and having that adventure at whatever level you’re comfortable with, whether that be long walks on the beach or learning to dive in the ocean.
But domesticated water will do the trick, too
The biggest advantage of domesticated water is that it’s much more accessible to most people, whether it’s in your home or in your backyard—like a pool or spa—or in your community. And it tends to be year-round, whereas outdoor water may freeze and getting in it is precluded by ice. The key is to make it a priority and a daily ritual or habit; it could be a bath before bed or going for a swim in the morning or going to a spa on the weekend. If you spend time in water at home, make it a priority to close the door. Don’t bring your technology. Light a candle. Maybe have a glass of wine if it’s the evening. Really make it your sanctuary time. Or, do it with someone and still do all of those things, but make it private social time. The romantic aspect of water is real.
Virtual water can help create a Blue Mind, too
These days, when people talk about “virtual,” they’re often talking about VR goggles and VR experiences. That’s one way. But what I mean by virtual water is photography and artwork, music and recordings—any depiction of water when water is not there. People might like to put a photograph or painting of a place where they love spending time in their home or their office. Sometimes you go on vacation and you come home with some art from that place, and you hang it on the wall and it reminds you of how you felt when you were there. There are lots of songs written by musicians who were inspired by nature and the coast and water. If you love the water and you love the way it makes you feel, you can bring it into your home through images and art and music and water recordings.
Having a Blue Mind could change your life—and the world
Let’s be a little audacious and crazy here: If we were all 1 per cent happier, 1 per cent calmer, 1 per cent kinder and more connected with each other, 1 per cent more creative, then I think we would start solving more problems and take better care of ourselves and take better care of each other and take better care of the water around us. There’s no downside to that at all. It’s all good. And it’s realistic. If this idea makes our lives 1 per cent happier and healthier and makes the planet 1 per cent happier and healthier, that’s major. It’s just a matter of talking about it.