Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Blue Mind - looking at water improves your health and calm

I just spend three days this past weekend in a guesthouse cabin in Door County, Wisconsin - three days of seeing mainly gorgeous green forests and the blue expanses of Lake Michigan on both sides of the Door County peninsula. Over those days, just looking at the water, I could feel a calm growing that quieted my normally chattering mind. Now, back in my university office, what do I stumble across but an article (on stress) that mentions this calming effect of water, a review by Michael Gross titled "Chronic stress means we’re always on the hunt", which first notes that one relief described for chronic stress (dubbed "Red Mind") is to give the stress system some real exercise (doing something like sky diving) to put the more mundane stresses of daily life in perspective. But then, in a second portion of his article, he points to work of Wallace J. Nichols and others who use the phrase "Blue mind" to describe the interface between our psychology and natural environment, particularly water, the largest feature of that environment. Gross notes that Nichols has put his ideas a new book, called Blue Mind: How Water Makes You Happier, More Connected, and Better at What You Do, which is due to appear in June. In his book, Nichols discusses a spate of recent psychology papers showing that the proximity of “blue nature” can improve people’s physical and mental health and counterbalance the damaging effects of the chronic stress and the permanent engagement of the red mind. While the opportunity to exercise plays a part, several studies have shown that the positive effect of being near water can be separated from that aspect.

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