Marine biologist and author of Blue Mind, Wallace J Nichols, has spoken out about the physical and psychological benefits of water.
Since the very beginning, humans have explored the oceans for food, travel, and even sports, which has cemented water as an important part of our very foundation. And now, it turns out that being near or around water can have immeasurable effects on our mental health.
But how much does it actually impact our lives?
Nichols recently spoke to CNtraveller about his research regarding our natural affinity for the ocean...
He calls this our "blue mind," using water to escape the stresses of modern-day life in favor of a more connected moment of relaxation. Research has found that humans thrive being surrounded by water in any form, from rivers to mountain lakes, for its restorative benefits. Even doctors in the Victorian era prescribed sea air as a cure-all for everything from asthma to mental health conditions.
More recent studies have found that people are generally healthier and happier when they live near the coast. Other studies have found that our heart rates drop when we see images of the see or blue spaces. Nichols, who studied the human relationship to water for the last twenty-five years, has found that something as little as dewdrops on a flower provides a deep sense of calm.
As we know, water makes up about seventy percent of the human body (and about seventy percent of Earth), so it's no surprise it has such an effect on our health.
"When we are by the water it... cuts us off from the rattle and hum of modern society," Nichols explained. "Moving water is expert at masking noise, especially the sound of the human voice," he says, mentioning that the human voice is considered the largest source of workplace stress.
Water even helps us to fall asleep! "There is some research that suggests people may sleep better when they are adjacent to nature," explained W. Christopher Winter, author of The Sleep Solution. "No wonder sleep machines always use the sounds of rain, the ocean, or a flowing river."
A study by Northwestern University found that people who fell asleep listening to sounds such as rushing water or rain, otherwise known as "pink noise," not only had a deeper sleep but also reported a boost in their memories.
"Our oceans, waterways, and the life they contain are so much more than their ecological, economic, and educational value. They have vast emotional benefits. They make life on earth possible, but also worth living," said Nichols. "I like to imagine the world would be a better place if we all understood just how true that is. Water is medicine, for everyone, for life."
I don't know about you, but I'm taking a trip to the nearest beach ASAP!