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Blue Mind: Boost Your Resilience – and Happiness – By Being Near, In, On or Under Water

Blue Mind: Boost Your Resilience – and Happiness – By Being Near, In, On or Under Water

A client of mine, a near-professional surfer, recommended Blue Mind to me, a wonderful exploration of “the surprising science that shows how being near, in, on, or under water can make you happier, healthier, more connected, and better at what you do.”

Like similar compilations of the benefits of spending time in nature [see Linda’s e-newsletter Nature Makes Us Healthier, Happier and More Creative] Blue Mind explores many aspects of the resonance and well-being we experience diving into, sailing over, even viewing fishbowls and photographs of the silvery-blue liquid that covers 70% of the surface of our planet and comprises ¾ of our own body weight.

Some of the resonances and benefits are intuitive:

Playing in the water – bathtub, pond, lake, ocean – soothes us, reduces stress, and can diminish anxiety more effectively than medication.

Having fun in water – swimming, surfing, fishing, kayaking – energizes our senses – we feel more alive and connected with our world.

Some are counter-intuitive:

Being in water amplifies our creativity, improves performance and generates innovation and insights in any field

Immersion in water increases generosity, compassion, and connections with our fellow human beings

Playing in water helps young people cope better with autism, ADHD, physical and mental disabilities, addictions, PTSD, traumatic brain injury and depression.

Some benefits border on the unbelievable…

When the Japanese government installed blue lights in train stations (the color preferred by the majority of people the world over, 4-5 more times than green, purple, red, yellow, etc.) suicide attempts (jumping in front of a train) stopped completely.

Blue Mind is a collaborative effort by neuroscientists, evolutionary biologists, and medical researchers developing real world applications of the benefits of spending time in water to education, public policy, health care, urban and coastal planning, travel, real estate, business and happiness and well-being.

We all seem to intuitively know that taking a nap on the beach or enjoying a good novel poolside are among the most reliable ways we have to relax, replenish, and rejuvenate.  People universally prefer natural landscapes that have water in them.

Facts and stats: 80% of the world’s population lives with 60 miles of the coastline of an ocean, lake, or river. Water supports 2/3 of our global economy. 

Poetry and images: Thousands have lived without love. Not one without water.

– W.H. Auden

EXERCISES to boost your happiness and resilience by being near, in, on, or under water

1.  Drink water!   Our brains need to stay hydrated for optimal functioning (notice the headaches that develop when you’re thirsty) and no other liquids can substitute for 8 ounces of water a day.

2.  Find your personal-environmental fit that works best for you – fishing a stream, soaking in a natural hot springs, watching the aquarium in your dentist’s office – and hang out there a lot. Notice the sounds, the colors, the sensations; savor them and let them soothe you. Shift from Red Mind (anxious) or Gray Mind (depressed) to Blue Mind – calm, relaxed, at ease.

3.  Moving water – streams, waterfalls, oceans, even reflections in a swimming pool or bathtub – stimulates the brain with both novelty and regularity. That stimulates the dopamine reward system and we feel energized.  Find your favorite “place” of water and visit there regularly, really, a lot.

4.  Combine time near water with some service project (like a beach clean-up). The sense of meaning and purpose creates an even deeper sense of happiness (eudaimonia) rather than just personal happiness (hedonia). That eudaimonia affects gene expression and helps delay the onset of life-threatening illnesses.

5.  Learn to swim. We are programmed by evolution to begin walking and talking without being taught, but we do need to learn how to swim.  The learning to coordinate breath, movement, and vision (cognitive and aerobic) builds new neurons in the brain. That builds more cognitive reserve, which protects the structure and functioning of the brain as we age.

6.  Take a break from multi-tasking. The author includes a long section on the detrimental effects of multi-tasking on the brain: when people receive 100 emails a day, and check their phone 34 times a day, and 5 hours surfing the Web, checking email, texting, tweeting and social networking for every one hour spent talking with a person directly, their IQ drops by ten points.  (Twice the deterioration of cognitive functioning as smoking marijuana.)

Taking a how shower or soaking in a hot tub is recommended to give the pre-frontal cortex, the center of executive functioning, a rest so it can recover its “muscles” for making decisions, managing impulses, and all kinds of creative endeavors.

I go to nature to be soothed, and to have my senses put in order.

– John Burroughs

May this be steadily and blissfully true for you.

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