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Why Being Near Large Bodies of Water Helps Lower Stress and Anxiety, According to Research

by DailyHealthPost Editorial

Some people love going to the beach while others don’t. Is it fair to say that being near water always “brings happiness”, however? Is it the water that some people dislike about going to the beach or is it the big crowds of people, the sun, and the sand? 

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According to a paper in the Journal of Environmental Psychology being near water is always calming to our subconscious minds at least on its own. This includes not only being near water but also swimming and diving into water, as well as living near water. It also includes all types of natural water bodies such as rivers, lakes, ponds, seas, and oceans. Again, that’s if we ignore other factors that often irritate some people near beaches such as, well – other people.

Best-selling author and marine biologist Wallace J. Nichols definitely agrees with this theory too. In his book, Blue Mind he talks about the calming properties of water in detail. 

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“The term ‘blue mind’ describes the mildly meditative state we fall into when near, in, on or under water,” Nichols said in 2017. “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.”

According to Nichols, the mere presence of water near us can help us get to “an elevated and sustained happiness”. As he puts it, that’s because water is good at “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.”

Spending time near water is also said to help inspire our creativity and even our conversational abilities. 

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We gat another fascinating input from W. Christopher Winter – M.D. and the author of The Sleeping Solution. According to him, being near water promotes a steadier and healthier sleep cycle too.

“There is some research that says people may sleep better when they are adjacent to nature,” W. Christopher Winter said. “No wonder sleep machines always feature the sounds of rain, the ocean, or a flowing river.”

Why does water have such amazing qualities, however? The answer doesn’t lie in its molecules or its consistency but is almost entirely in our subconscious. Here are some of the main ways in which large bodies of water can help us calm down:

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  1. The breeze and taste of salt in the air near seas and oceans are usually associated with pleasant memories. Because most of us visit the sea with our families as kids, we tend to associate it with a nice and care-free vacation (even if that wasn’t the case for our parents). 
  2. The open spaces near and above large bodies of water are an unusual and welcoming sight for our subconscious mind. Most of us are used to being surrounded by giant concrete buildings, noisy neighbors/colleagues, and smelly cars most of the time. That’s why the simple sight of the bright open sky above a lake or the sea is immediately calming for most people.
  3. The sheer sight of the open skies above water basins is also calming for our eye muscles. Most people work on computers nowadays and that can lead to strained eyes. And that’s not only because of the blue light emitting from the screen. It’s also because we rarely get the chance to exercise our eye muscles by staring at something that’s more than several feet away from us. Being “in the open” helps with that, and few places are as “open” as the open skies above lakes and seas. 
  4. The sound of water is also calming. Whether it’s the waves of the sea crashing onto the beach or a river running over the rocks in the mountains, it’s almost always a calming experience.
  5. Most large water bodies are also often surrounded by nature. Yes, the most popular beaches are usually overcrowded but most seashores are still unpopulated as are most lakes and river banks. 
  6. Swimming is fun. Yes, some people don’t feel that way but for most of us, even just dipping in a gently rocking lake or sea is very calming.
  7. Diving is one of the best ways to meditate. The whole point of meditations is to calm your mind by briefly forgetting about everything else around you. This is extra easy for divers as being underwater is the closest thing we have to literally “leaving” the entire rest of the world behind you. 
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