One of the most relaxing moments of the year for me is when I finally sink into my beach chair on my beloved lifetime vacation spot on Marco Island. The sight and sound of the waves crashing against the shore calm me in a way that nothing else can. In fact, one of my favorite meditation guides is called “A Walk Along the Beach.” This just goes to show that water can soothe!
Why is this true for me and for so many others?
Well, science can actually explain it. Marine biologist Dr. Wallace Nichols has studied this phenomenon, and his findings are reported in his book, “Blue Mind.” Nichols defined the blue mind as the “mildly meditative state we fall into when near, in, on or under water.” It’s the opposite of the “red mind,” which is the “anxious, over-connected and over- stimulated state that defines the new normal of modern life.”
Nichols found that being around water could help to reduce stress and anxiety and increase happiness. It can also help to lower resting heart rate. He explains how our “biological need for water” makes it one of the best sources of medication and calm. Ever wonder why taking a shower often relieves feelings of stress or sickness? The water provides a curative sensation for both physical or mental health, says Nichols.
“Water makes you happier, healthier, more connected to other people, and better at what you do,” Nichols said in his book “Blue Mind.”
Michael Depledge, director of The European Center of Environment and Human Health at the University of Exeter Medical School, has conducted a number of studies through the years on the benefits of water to overall health. A study by Depledge’s team published in the journal “Health and Place” found that people being closer to water positively affected people’s health because of an increase in physical activity and less stress.
Water appeals to most of our senses. One of Depledge’s studies found that visual scenes with water are connected to a renewal of health and strength. The sound of waves is also connected to a sense of calm. Nichols found that the repetitive nature of the sound allows people to revel in the sound which creates a “bubble of solitude and privacy.”
How can we reap the benefits of water in our daily lives?
There are a number of apps and sound machines that offer the sound of water as an option of white noise. Some of the more popular apps include “Rain Rain Sleep Sounds” for the iOS and Android, which contains water noises like thunderstorm, faucets and ocean sounds. “Ocean Sounds Relax and Sleep” has a variety of sounds from the ocean like waves, boat sounds and waterfalls.
For those who are land-locked, Nichols suggests using tubs, showers and spas to try and gain the same benefits. Even fountains and water-related features in your home can help to calm if used mindfully. If you’re lucky enough to live near any bodies of water, oceans and rivers do not need to be the only source of water. Water can soothe from lakes, ponds or streams and can provide the same types of healing benefits.