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The Method: Water as medicine for the mind

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If you have ever spent time mesmerised by a sunset over the water, floating contentedly in the sea or fishing serenely off a pier, you have no doubt felt the calming impact of water.

But did you know that growing evidence suggests that being in and around, and even looking at water can deliver some amazing health benefits?

Neuroscientists and psychologists say that wild water (think oceans and rivers) are a wellspring of happiness and relaxation, decreasing stress and improving mental health.

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While we don’t completely understand why, there is undeniable evidence that supports that desire to stroll along the beach, float in a calming creek and even live in a home with water views.

Let’s dive into some of the thinking.

The Blue Movement

In his iconic book The Blue Mind, marine biologist Dr Wallace J Nichols, demonstrates how being near the water can improve performance, increase calm, diminish anxiety and increase professional success.

In his poetic and compelling TedX talk he speaks of the Red Mind that many of us operate with – waking to the sound of our phones, spiralling through the day in a bubble of stress, and then ending the day…again, to the sound of our phones. All the time killing neurons and creativity, not living our lives to their full potential.

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A lot of research in the past has focused on how green spaces can help us get the calm our minds need. In fact groups such as the World Health Organisation have long recognised the importance of green spaces in our wellbeing.

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It was a European research initiative named Blue Health though, which has found evidence that spending time in or around water can be just as beneficial as spending time in green spaces.

In fact, Dr Nichols told Elemental: “You can take almost all of the green space research, sub in the word blue and find a lot of the same effects. Green space is good, but add a pond or a fountain or a lakeshore and it’s better.”

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Why it’s super important

At this point we all know that chronic stress and anxiety can cause and/or intensify a range of physical and mental afflictions, including depression, diabetes, cancer and autoimmune issues.

A Future Science study found that stress and anxiety can actually change the structure of the brain, compromise the immune system and damage multiple organs and tissues long-term.

So what can we do about that? There are a lot of options including meditation, sound baths, walking and exercising. But the Blue Mind movement says that being on, in or near water is one of the most cost-effective ways to reduce stress and anxiety.

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Water can slow brainwaves, while it also inspires a sense of awe that promotes happiness creativity. The sound of water is relaxing, whether it’s the crash of a wave or the tap of raindrops. Water is also rich in negative ions, which help you to absorb oxygen and improve serotonin levels.

There are so many reasons to get closer into water, what will yours be?