“Spending time near water improves mental health”
A 2013 British study found that people were substantially happier when they were in Nature, compared with an urban environment, and that people in marine and coastal areas were the happiest, by far. Researchers Susana Mourato at the London School of Economics (LSE) and George Mackerron at the University of Sussex in the United Kingdom published a refereed article in LSE Research Online. They recruited more than 20,000 people across the UK to enter information about their feelings into a smartphone app with location data whenever they received a questionnaire, at random times. With more than a million responses, the researchers found that coastal locations received 6 points higher on a 100-point happiness scale that urban environments and 2-3 points higher than other natural habitats.
The 2020 BlueHealth Project, with results published in Ocean, Human Health and Wellbeing, studied blue spaces over four years. European researchers at the European Centre for Environment & Human Health at the University of Exeter in the UK defined blue spaces as outdoor environments – natural or person-made – that prominently feature water, such as oceans, seas, lakes, rivers, fountains, ponds, public swimming pools, etc. They found that blue spaces scored better for people’s physical and mental wellbeing than green spaces, such as forests and parks – independent of other socio-economic differences, including the lack of employment and money.
The wellbeing benefits of blue spaces seem to apply regardless of whether people are playing in beach sand, swimming, paddling, sailing, walking along the coastline or around the lake, rock pooling, watching water (including fountains), taking photographs of water, or being in the vicinity of water.
The BlueHealth Project researchers showed that the strongest predictor of good mental health was not based upon the proximity to – nor the length of time in – blue spaces, but on people’s psychological connectedness to it.
People do not have to be IN water to get the benefits of water.
Studies have found that simply looking at pictures, photographs, videos, films, documentaries, and clips of blue spaces can emulate some of the benefits that real blue spaces have. The healing powers of blue spaces can include increasing positivity and beating boredom.
A dentist study found that patients having a tooth pulled, who experienced a Virtual Reality walk along a beach (i.e. wearing a VR monitor), felt less pain, anxiety, and stress, and were more likely to return to the dentist in the future than people who took a Virtual Reality walk around a town, or did not use the VR monitor at all.
From the ocean to seemingly calm water pools, blue spaces are unpredictable and are often also habitats for animals, and therefore extreme care should be taken. When jumping into cold water, it can induce shock, making breathing difficult, leading to dire consequences. Being in water may induce muscle cramps; flowing water can drag people downstream or into the open sea; underwater rips can pull people below the surface; and objects can lead to snagging, impact injuries, and other serious harm. Animals, large or small or microscopic, living in or near water, may be dangerous, toxic, and aggressive. Touching animals may result in injury or death for people and for the animals themselves. Entering water alone is not recommended for novice swimmers – nor even experienced swimmers. Please be careful around, on, and in all bodies of water, shallow and deep, still and flowing.
Water therapy and activities do not necessarily address core issues.
“People are like water: Many rush pass you, as some will over-flood. Some will drown you, or force you to go their current ways. Some will be cold or hot-tempered, but try to stay with the warm ones. Some will come as a raging wave and cause a ripple, or a calm sea, supporting you, quenching your thirst, and flow by your side to where kisses will always stay wet.” – Anthony Liccione
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