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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

Freelance Writer

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Last Updated on December 2, 2018

How to Flow Your Way to a More Productive Life

How to Flow Your Way to a More Productive Life

Ebb and flow. Contraction and expansion. Highs and lows. It’s all about the cycles of life.

The entire course of our life follows this up and down pattern of more and then less. Our days flow this way, each following a pattern of more energy, then less energy, more creativity and periods of greater focus bookended by moments of low energy when we cringe at the thought of one more meeting, one more call, one more sentence.

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The key is in understanding how to use the cycles of ebb and flow to our advantage. The ability to harness these fluctuations, understand how they affect our productivity and mood and then apply that knowledge as a tool to improve our lives is a valuable strategy that few individuals or corporations have mastered.

Here are a few simple steps to start using this strategy today:

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Review Your Past Flow

Take just a few minutes to look back at how your days and weeks have been unfolding. What time of the day are you the most focused? Do you prefer to be more social at certain times of the day? Do you have difficulty concentrating after lunch or are you energized? Are there days when you can’t seem to sit still at your desk and others when you could work on the same project for hours?

Do you see a pattern starting to emerge? Eventually you will discover a sort of map or schedule that charts your individual productivity levels during a given day or week.  That’s the first step. You’ll use this information to plan your days going forward.

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Schedule According to Your Flow Pattern

Look at the types of things you do each day…each week. What can you move around so that it’s a better fit for you? Can you suggest to your team that you schedule meetings for late morning if you can’t stand to be social first thing? Can you schedule detailed project work or highly creative tasks, like writing or designing when you are best able to focus? How about making sales calls or client meetings on days when you are the most social and leaving billing or reports until another time when you are able to close your door and do repetitive tasks.

Keep in mind that everyone is different and some things are out of our control. Do what you can. You might be surprised at just how flexible clients and managers can be when they understand that improving your productivity will result in better outcomes for them.

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Account for Big Picture Fluctuations

Look at the bigger picture. Consider what happens during different months or times during the year. Think about what is going on in the other parts of your life. When is the best time for you to take on a new project, role or responsibility? Take into account other commitments that zap your energy. Do you have a sick parent, a spouse who travels all the time or young children who demand all of your available time and energy?

We all know people who ignore all of this advice and yet seem to prosper and achieve wonderful success anyway, but they are usually the exception, not the rule. For most of us, this habitual tendency to force our bodies and our brains into patterns of working that undermine our productivity result in achieving less than desired results and adding more stress to our already overburdened lives.

Why not follow the ebb and flow of your life instead of fighting against it?

    Featured photo credit: Nathan Dumlao via unsplash.com

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