Peace of Mind on the Water


A day at the beach brings joy to visitors of all ages. Those who love to vacation by oceans, lakes and even swimming pools can attest to the water’s power to inspire relaxation and promote personal rejuvenation. And it’s no wonder that so many hotels and resorts are situated on the water, as travelers often pay a premium for shimmering views.

The bestselling book, Blue Mind: 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, by marine biologist Wallace J. Nichols, focuses on the proven scientific evidence that being close to bodies of water promotes mental health and happiness.

As an avid traveler as well as scientist, Nichols realized at an early age that the ocean inspired a sense of peacefulness within. From playing in the waves at the New Jersey shore as a child to his later SCUBA diving explorations, he understood that enjoying the water was more than a fun pastime — it was a natural way to rest and recharge.

I caught up with Nichols at the Lake Austin Spa Resort in Texas, where he launched a Blue Mind partner program. He explained why he and other scientists agree that the healing power of water is beneficial to emotional health and physical well-being, and why you should travel to achieve your own “blue mind.”

Q: What inspired you to write your book, Blue Mind?

A: Honestly, I wanted to read a book about water’s positive effects on the human body and mind, but couldn’t find anything that had been published — because it hadn’t been written. Then I tried to convince some colleagues who were neuroscientists and psychologists to write it, and gave them my research — but they would not write it. My third choice was to write it myself — and it took me about five years.

Q: What’s the concept of “Blue Mind”?

A: The term “blue mind” describes the mildly meditative state we fall into when near, in, on or under water. It’s the antidote to what we refer to as “red mind,” which is the anxious, over-connected and over-stimulated state that defines the new normal of modern life. Research has proven that spending time near the water is essential to achieving an elevated and sustained happiness.

Q: Why is it so important to vacation by the water?

A: Research has shown that being near, in, on or under water can provide a long list of benefits for our mind and body, including lowering stress and anxiety, increasing an overall sense of well-being and happiness, a lower heart and breathing rate, and safe, better workouts. Aquatic therapists are increasingly looking to the water to help treat and manage PTSD, addiction, anxiety disorders, autism and more. We’ve found that being near water boosts creativity, can enhance the quality of conversations and provides a backdrop to important parts of living — like play, romance and grieving. All of this depends on these waters being safe, clean and healthy, of course.

In experiments, images depicting water triggered a more positive response than those without water. Flip through any travel magazine and you’ll see that editors and advertisers understand this very well.

*Full article can be found on USA TODAY


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