BRAD DYE: The healing and restorative properties of water

Photo by Brad Dye

I don’t know how many times I have watched the sunrise at Bonita Lakes while hiking, trail running and mountain biking, but I have never been disappointed. In terms of local destinations for a “Blue Mind” experience, I would be hard pressed to find a more beautiful option.

 

Several weeks ago I joined a small group of men gathering for the purpose of providing comfort and support for a good friend who lost his wife last year. We chose to do that circled around a fire pit that overlooked the beautiful waters of a lake. Since that day, I have often thought about the restorative and healing properties of water.

What is it about water that so attracts us? Why is it that so many of our getaways and vacations involve water? Why is a trip to the beach, reservoir, lake, pond, river, or local stream the ideal way, for many, to leave the worries of work and life behind and quiet the mind? It probably comes as no surprise that science seems to support these inclinations.

Marine biologist Wallace J. Nichols addresses this science in his best-selling 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.”

In an interview about “Blue Mind” with USA Today, Nichols discussed the fact that “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.”

While I didn’t get a better low-impact workout while sitting at David White’s lake that night, I certainly felt less stress and anxiety. What is it about water that has this calming effect on us? In the interview, Nichols explained the concept of “Blue Mind” as “the mildly meditative state we fall into when near, in, on or under water.”

According to Nichols, “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.” Since the interview was conducted in a pre-COVID-19 world, I think the increased level of angst that most, if not all, of us are feeling makes having these “blue mind” experiences even more important.

I have written previously about the benefits of the outdoors to both mental and physical well-being, however, to this point, I had never really thought about the fact that many of my favorite outdoor experiences also involve water. What immediately comes to mind now are the mountain streams along the Appalachian Trail.

BRAD DYE: The healing and restorative properties of water

Photo by Brad Dye

From left, Jamie Thomas, Andrew Lund and Dan Dye take a break beside one of the numerous mountain streams along the Appalachian Trail in Georgia. At the most basic level the streams serve as the water source for hikers along the trail, however, they also serve as a gathering spot for rest and relaxation after a long hike. Camping near those streams always makes for a peaceful night’s sleep.

 

At the most basic level, the streams along the AT are life-giving. We all need a clean supply of drinking water as a basic means for survival and there is a very comforting feeling when you stop at one of those streams to filter your water and replenish your supply. So why is it that I find myself stopping even when my water supply is well-stocked?

Thinking about this made me realize that there really is something to the “Blue Mind” concept. The mere sight of the stream draws me in and finding a campsite within earshot of those mountain streams certainly makes for a peaceful night of sleep. Water and the sound of water relax us. Why else would sound machines mimic mountain streams and ocean waves within the comforts of our bedrooms?

Water has always played an integral part in my life. Growing up, fishing and wading in the creek were daily activities in the springs and summers of my youth. However, it was not until relatively recently that I have had the pleasure of living on a lake and experiencing, first hand, the benefits of living near the water.

To this point, Nichols says that “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.”

BRAD DYE: The healing and restorative properties of water

Photo by Brad Dye

There is something to the science behind the “Blue Mind” concept. As I said, I certainly feel more creative while staring at these waters while writing. I think it makes the coffee taste better, too!

 

I can attest to the truth in this science as nothing seems to get my creative juices flowing like sitting with a cup of coffee in the early morning looking out over the lake as I write. Furthermore, the lake certainly made the perfect backdrop a few weeks ago as we sat around the fire staring at those waters while talking and grieving the loss of a dear friend.

We are blessed in Meridian and East Central Mississippi with an abundance of great lakes and rivers to serve as the destination for your “Blue Mind” excursion. Bonita Lakes, the Chunky River, and Okatibbee Reservoir are just a few of my local favorites.

I’ve spent countless hours in and around these waters and now I have scientific evidence to support the many hours I plan to spend there in the future. Make plans this week to spend some time on the water exercising, fishing, relaxing, and stimulating your “Blue Mind” in the process. I look forward to seeing you out there in our great outdoors.

Email outdoors columnist Brad Dye at braddye@comcast.net.

BRAD DYE: The healing and restorative properties of water

Photo by Brad Dye

Our attraction to water is hardwired into our DNA. At the most basic level, we need it for survival, however, as the science behind “Blue Mind” shows, its importance goes much deeper than that. It provides a calming effect that yields both physical and mental benefits.

 

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