When the crystal blue water of the ocean calls you and you find peace when you are attracted to the sea, you can experience the power of the “blue spirit”.
When I’m stressed, I get snappy. On a day like this a few years ago, I was on the brink of a bad spell (I’ve lived most of my adult life with varying degrees of depression and anxiety), but I was determined to stay on firm ground. I made a list of things that could make me feel better and asked my husband to help me do the most important thing: a visit to the beach.
The next day we packed the car and buckled up. I was emotionally drained, but I hoped that the restless, sparkling North Sea would bring me back to life. But when my husband tried to start the car, my resuscitation on the beach was canceled. The battery was dead.
I had to wait hours for the repair service to arrive. I spent the day in tears and couldn’t explain why. My deep feeling of longing to be near water was overwhelming and frankly a bit embarrassing. Until recently, I found out that there is a name for the powerful effects of water on our mental health. It’s called “Blue Mind” and I’m 100% on board.
Marine biologist Wallace J Nichols coined the term and gave a TedTalk on the subject. “The term” blue spirit “describes the slightly meditative state we get into when we are nearby, in, on or under water,” he says. “It is the antidote to what we call the” red spirit “. This is the fearful, over-connected and over-excited state that defines the new normality of modern life.” Research has shown that it is important to spend time near the water in order to achieve increased and sustainable happiness. “
Wallace also wrote a book on Blue Mind: How water makes you happier, more connected, and better at what you do. It combines state-of-the-art studies in neurobiology and psychology with personal stories from people who have experienced the power of the blue spirit in real life.
Most of us know that going outside is good for our mental and physical health, but visiting the sea or a lake is considered by some to be the optimal version of natural therapy. In fact, a 2016 study found that an increased view of the blue space is significantly associated with less psychological stress, a result that was not the case for the green space. One reason for this could be the color blue. Experiments show that blue light can lower heart rate, and on a railroad in Tokyo, suicides were reduced by 74% by installing blue light.
Research shows that chewing thoughts and feelings of anxiety can be suppressed by observing the expansion of our oceans. Rolling tides put us in a meditative state and give us a sense of the perspective of life, which tends to effectively minimize worries.
Observing the ocean is a strong contradiction to the environment in which we normally live in our daily life. Blinking phones, tense meetings, and noisy cities are being replaced by an almost static landscape that remains largely unchanged when we watch peacefully. While the void envelops us, our brain relaxes naturally. When little surprises come up – a seagull, a wave – this provides a shot of dopamine, which increases the feel-good factor.
Rolling tides put us in a meditative state and give us a sense of the perspective of life, which tends to effectively minimize worries
Wallace calls this regularity without monotony what “is the perfect recipe to trigger a state of involuntary attention that triggers the brain’s standard network, which is essential for creativity and problem solving.” Have you ever wondered why your dentist has a huge aquarium in his waiting room? Studies show that viewing aquariums can relax patients undergoing oral surgery. Subjects who looked at aquariums experienced a drop in blood pressure, a heart rate and an improved mood.
According to the Blue Mind theory, being in or on the water is just as powerful as observing it from a distance. Hydrotherapy has been shown to reduce psychological stress, while swimming releases endorphins, promotes deep breathing, and leads to a meditative-like state. Surfing is so healing that it is widely used in recovery programs to replace the high associated with drug abuse. Kayaking is a water-based activity that is particularly therapeutic for soldiers and veterans with PTSD. The combination of physical exercise, learning a new skill and the effect of the blue mind can break the cycle of traumatic memories and help replace painful memories with positive memories on the water.
The main problem is that access to natural water sources is an entry barrier for some (property prices are notoriously more expensive in coastal areas), but there are alternative ways to take advantage of the blue mind effect. A hot shower can relieve anxiety, while a cold shower can revitalize the mind and body. Anything that reflects the sound of water is likely to relieve stress and have a calming effect. I personally like to play rain sounds or waves in my headphones when I move back and forth at night. Even watching videos or pictures of water can help restore the powers of nature in your own home.