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Science Explains How Staying Near Water Can Change Our Brains

Science Explains How Staying Near Water Can Change Our Brains

Have you ever felt at peace when you’re walking by the ocean? A sense of rejuvenation when you stand by a waterfall? How about taking in the view of a breathtaking lake from your window? We can often report feeling a sense of calm when we’re around water and scientists say, this is having a positive effect on our brains.

So what exactly is happening to our brains when we surround ourselves with water? Well, the calming effect is down to a vacation for our brains from over-stimulation. Looking at water and listening to its sound puts our overloaded minds into a relaxed and hypnotic-like state with the benefit of this being a different way that our brain processes thoughts, leading to more calm and creative states and an increase our well-being.

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Often referred to as blue space, the impact of the sea, rivers, lakes on our happiness and well-being is being researched much more by neuro-scientists and psychologists. Wallace J. Nichols, a marine biologist, has discussed and published the different ways bodies of water really can positively affect us and many psychologists have researched how just having blue space in front of you can boost your mental health.

Water Induces Meditative States

When we hear the crashing of waves by the ocean, it can actually put us into a mindful, mediative state. The sound of waves has been found to alter the brain’s wave patterns and invoking a meditative, relaxed state. Even simply observing the movement of water causes our minds to calm. This has numerous benefits for contributing to lowering depression, lowering stress levels, anxiety, and promotes better mental clarity and sleep patterns.

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Water Invokes Inspiration and Creativity

When we’re near water, our brains switch off from busy mode to relaxed mode. This naturally leads our brains to open up because it’s not focused on the millions of thoughts swirling around that can often lead to stress or anxiety. When your brain is in this relaxed state, it is open more to inspired and creative thoughts. In essence, we are switching our brains off or giving it a rest from the norm causing a better mental environment for insight and introspection.

Water Gives Us A Sense of Awe

Awe is an important factor in the recently popular science of positive psychology. The emotion of awe contributes greatly to our happiness because it not only allows us to be in the present moment but it causes us to think about our place in the world around us invoking a feeling of being humble, feelings of a connection to something beyond ourselves and the pure vastness of nature.

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Water Increases The Benefits of Exercise

Exercising is obviously a good way to improve our mental well-being, however going for a run or walk by the ocean will increase these benefits ten fold. Going for a swim in a lake or cycling along a river trail will give you more of a mental boost than working out in a crowded city or gym environment. The idea is that being surrounded by blue space triggers a more positive benefit to exercising, with the intake of negative ions into our systems increasing.

Water Is A Rich Source of Negative Ions

The effects of positive and negative ions on our well-being have been considered a natural influence on how we feel. Positive ions are emitted by electrical appliances such as computers, microwaves and hairdryers that drains us of our natural energy whereas negative ions are generated by waterfalls, oceans waves, and thunderstorms. The rich amount of negative ions in the atmosphere accelerate our ability to absorb oxygen, balance levels of seratonin (the chemical linked to mood and stress), and contributes towards rejuvenating the mind and improving alertness and concentration.

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Taking A Natural Dip

Not only does being near water increase your sense of well-being, but being submerged in a natural source of water such as the sea or a lake invigorates your body greatly. The differing temperatures add benefits from both sides – the natural, cold chill can provide a soothing treatment for your nerves and refresh the body both mentally and physically while warmer waters during the summer can help relax muscles and tensions.

So, if you’re looking to clear your head then search for some blue space – whether you’re lucky enough to visit the ocean or just sitting near your local fountain, water has a powerful influence on the brain and can help change your mental clarity, capacity, happiness, and well-being.

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Jenny Marchal

A passionate writer who loves sharing about positive psychology.

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Last Updated on September 16, 2019

How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators

How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators

You have a deadline looming. However, instead of doing your work, you are fiddling with miscellaneous things like checking email, social media, watching videos, surfing blogs and forums. You know you should be working, but you just don’t feel like doing anything.

We are all familiar with the procrastination phenomenon. When we procrastinate, we squander away our free time and put off important tasks we should be doing them till it’s too late. And when it is indeed too late, we panic and wish we got started earlier.

The chronic procrastinators I know have spent years of their life looped in this cycle. Delaying, putting off things, slacking, hiding from work, facing work only when it’s unavoidable, then repeating this loop all over again. It’s a bad habit that eats us away and prevents us from achieving greater results in life.

Don’t let procrastination take over your life. Here, I will share my personal steps on how to stop procrastinating. These 11 steps will definitely apply to you too:

1. Break Your Work into Little Steps

Part of the reason why we procrastinate is because subconsciously, we find the work too overwhelming for us. Break it down into little parts, then focus on one part at the time. If you still procrastinate on the task after breaking it down, then break it down even further. Soon, your task will be so simple that you will be thinking “gee, this is so simple that I might as well just do it now!”.

For example, I’m currently writing a new book (on How to achieve anything in life). Book writing at its full scale is an enormous project and can be overwhelming. However, when I break it down into phases such as –

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  • (1) Research
  • (2) Deciding the topic
  • (3) Creating the outline
  • (4) Drafting the content
  • (5) Writing Chapters #1 to #10,
  • (6) Revision
  • (7) etc.

Suddenly it seems very manageable. What I do then is to focus on the immediate phase and get it done to my best ability, without thinking about the other phases. When it’s done, I move on to the next.

2. Change Your Environment

Different environments have different impact on our productivity. Look at your work desk and your room. Do they make you want to work or do they make you want to snuggle and sleep? If it’s the latter, you should look into changing your workspace.

One thing to note is that an environment that makes us feel inspired before may lose its effect after a period of time. If that’s the case, then it’s time to change things around. Refer to Steps #2 and #3 of 13 Strategies To Jumpstart Your Productivity, which talks about revamping your environment and workspace.

3. Create a Detailed Timeline with Specific Deadlines

Having just 1 deadline for your work is like an invitation to procrastinate. That’s because we get the impression that we have time and keep pushing everything back, until it’s too late.

Break down your project (see tip #1), then create an overall timeline with specific deadlines for each small task. This way, you know you have to finish each task by a certain date. Your timelines must be robust, too – i.e. if you don’t finish this by today, it’s going to jeopardize everything else you have planned after that. This way it creates the urgency to act.

My goals are broken down into monthly, weekly, right down to the daily task lists, and the list is a call to action that I must accomplish this by the specified date, else my goals will be put off.

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Here’re more tips on setting deadlines: 22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

4. Eliminate Your Procrastination Pit-Stops

If you are procrastinating a little too much, maybe that’s because you make it easy to procrastinate.

Identify your browser bookmarks that take up a lot of your time and shift them into a separate folder that is less accessible. Disable the automatic notification option in your email client. Get rid of the distractions around you.

I know some people will out of the way and delete or deactivate their facebook accounts. I think it’s a little drastic and extreme as addressing procrastination is more about being conscious of our actions than counteracting via self-binding methods, but if you feel that’s what’s needed, go for it.

5. Hang out with People Who Inspire You to Take Action

I’m pretty sure if you spend just 10 minutes talking to Steve Jobs or Bill Gates, you’ll be more inspired to act than if you spent the 10 minutes doing nothing. The people we are with influence our behaviors. Of course spending time with Steve Jobs or Bill Gates every day is probably not a feasible method, but the principle applies — The Hidden Power of Every Single Person Around You

Identify the people, friends or colleagues who trigger you – most likely the go-getters and hard workers – and hang out with them more often. Soon you will inculcate their drive and spirit too.

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As a personal development blogger, I “hang out” with inspiring personal development experts by reading their blogs and corresponding with them regularly via email and social media. It’s communication via new media and it works all the same.

6. Get a Buddy

Having a companion makes the whole process much more fun. Ideally, your buddy should be someone who has his/her own set of goals. Both of you will hold each other accountable to your goals and plans. While it’s not necessary for both of you to have the same goals, it’ll be even better if that’s the case, so you can learn from each other.

I have a good friend whom I talk to regularly, and we always ask each other about our goals and progress in achieving those goals. Needless to say, it spurs us to keep taking action.

7. Tell Others About Your Goals

This serves the same function as #6, on a larger scale. Tell all your friends, colleagues, acquaintances and family about your projects. Now whenever you see them, they are bound to ask you about your status on those projects.

For example, sometimes I announce my projects on The Personal Excellence Blog, Twitter and Facebook, and my readers will ask me about them on an ongoing basis. It’s a great way to keep myself accountable to my plans.

8. Seek out Someone Who Has Already Achieved the Outcome

What is it you want to accomplish here, and who are the people who have accomplished this already? Go seek them out and connect with them. Seeing living proof that your goals are very well achievable if you take action is one of the best triggers for action.

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9. Re-Clarify Your Goals

If you have been procrastinating for an extended period of time, it might reflect a misalignment between what you want and what you are currently doing. Often times, we outgrow our goals as we discover more about ourselves, but we don’t change our goals to reflect that.

Get away from your work (a short vacation will be good, else just a weekend break or staycation will do too) and take some time to regroup yourself. What exactly do you want to achieve? What should you do to get there? What are the steps to take? Does your current work align with that? If not, what can you do about it?

10. Stop Over-Complicating Things

Are you waiting for a perfect time to do this? That maybe now is not the best time because of X, Y, Z reasons? Ditch that thought because there’s never a perfect time. If you keep waiting for one, you are never going to accomplish anything.

Perfectionism is one of the biggest reasons for procrastination. Read more about why perfectionist tendencies can be a bane than a boon: Why Being A Perfectionist May Not Be So Perfect.

11. Get a Grip and Just Do It

At the end, it boils down to taking action. You can do all the strategizing, planning and hypothesizing, but if you don’t take action, nothing’s going to happen. Occasionally, I get readers and clients who keep complaining about their situations but they still refuse to take action at the end of the day.

Reality check:

I have never heard anyone procrastinate their way to success before and I doubt it’s going to change in the near future.  Whatever it is you are procrastinating on, if you want to get it done, you need to get a grip on yourself and do it.

More About Procrastination

Featured photo credit: Malvestida Magazine via unsplash.com

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