There’s something about water that draws and fascinates us…
We know instinctively that being by water makes us healthier, happier, reduces stress, and brings us peace. When humans think of water, or hear water, or see water, or get in water, even taste and smell water — they feel something.
The sensory experience of the sand between our toes, the sound of the waves crashing down, the sight of the open, vast ocean in front of us, and the saltiness in the air always bring this feeling of adventure and aliveness – where everything seems possible.
But what is it about water that makes us feel this way?
Wallace Nichols, a marine biologist who has dedicated his life to understanding the effects of water on our brain and why it is so important to take care of our water systems and the environment. Nichols says we all naturally have a “blue mind” which is “a mildly meditative state characterized by calm, peacefulness, unity, and a sense of general happiness and satisfaction with life in the moment.” Alas, there is actual real science and research on the effects of water on us.
Based on Nichols’ studies, here are five reasons why water does a brain good:
1.Water Is Relaxing For Our Brain
All day long our brains are downloading information from the sensory world. But just like any muscle you use in your body repetitively, you need to take time to rest so it can recover properly and maintain it’s healthy condition. This is true for your brain too. Water gives your brain that much needed break. The sound and sight of water is much simpler for your brain to process than much of what you see and hear each day. City noises and television generate high levels of information for your brain to process.
2. Water Can Be Meditative For Our Brains
Since the sound and sight of the ocean is easy for the brain to process, it can create a soft focus, just like when you are focused on your breath in yoga or in a mindfulness practice. Because you’re brain changes gears, it can enter into a different state of awareness. Being in this relaxed, meditative state has similar effects to mindfulness, which has been linked to lower stress levels, improved mental clarity, relief from mild anxiety, and improved mood.
3. Water Can Inspire Us To Be Better People
The restful and contemplative state that the ocean has on your brain makes it easy for you to experience a state of awe. When you experience an overpowering feeling of reverence from the vastness of the ocean, and the majestic beauty around you, your brain can easily switch gears and change from an egocentric “I” orientation into a “we” orientation. When we disconnect from our separateness and tap into our universal human experience we more easily align with states of empathy and connection to others.
4. Water Can Inspire Creativity
Since the sound and sight of water allows for the brain to relax, it is easy for your brain to make new neural connections. With these new connections, you may think about a certain situation from a different vantage point. You get out of your mental rut and become more creative. Quite literally, water grows your brain.
5. Exercising By The Ocean Can Be Beneficial
We all know exercising is a natural and well-documented way to reduce stress and stay healthy. Both our bodies and our mood get a boost. Nichols says you may get even an extra boost from being near water or the ocean when exercising from the relaxed state (blue mind) that you’re experiencing. Exercising out in nature, especially by water, will be a different environment for your brain than being inside a gym where there is loud music playing, tv screens, and loads of people.