For as long I can remember I’ve had a dream of living on the beach. I am pretty sure it was the very first dream I ever created for myself. At the ripe age of five following my first trip to Hawaii I solidified the need for a beach life.
As I got older that dream only grew stronger and I always wondered why the beach was such a magical place. The sensory experience of the sand between my toes, the sound of the waves crashing down, the sight of the open, vast ocean in front of me, and the saltiness in the air always brought this feeling of adventure and aliveness in me – where everything seemed possible.
I know that I am not alone in this experience of “feeling alive” at the beach. It is a common experience for many people. The beach is a place where we find ourselves when we’re ready to unwind, relax, escape, and immerse ourselves in paradise.
Then I learned about Wallace Nichols, the 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
Whether it’s the ocean or any pool of water, water is like a vacation for our mind. It gives it a break. All day long our brains are downloading information from the sensory world. We are constantly bombarded with information for our brain to process from the outside world – things we see, hear, or touch.
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.
So when you’re around water your brain doesn’t have to work as hard. This allows you to change gears so to speak, letting the brain relax.
2. Water Can Be Meditative For Our Brains
Ever wonder why it is so easy for hours to go by unnoticed when watching the ocean? There’s a reason for that. The ocean has a calming effect on your mind, allowing it to go into a meditative state. 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. So if you’re having a hard time relaxing your mind get yourself in or around water.
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. Imagine a world where everyone lived at the beach and had an ocean view home.
4. Water Can Inspire Creativity
Do you get your best thoughts in the shower? Have you ever heard someone say this? 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.
For more from the author, visit SaltWaterFit.com