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GR8NESS expert Expert Reviewed
woman sitting on hammock in front of waterfall relaxing to the calming effects of water
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Why Does Looking at Water Relax Us?

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If you spend time relaxing on a beach, fishing, out on the water in a boat, or doing anything near water, you no doubt feel the powerful calming effects of water.

It’s no coincidence. There are some very real calming and health benefits of looking at water.

When something as simple as looking at water has such a powerful effect, it raises more questions than answers.

  • Why the calming effect of water relaxes us?
  • How does something as simple as looking at water help us feel more relaxed?
  • Is this something we can use to reduce stress?
  • While the exact reason behind the “how” is a bit of a mystery, we know a lot about the “why.”

Science explains why we feel more relaxed by looking at water on a biological level. Seeing or hearing the soothing sounds of moving water triggers a response in our brains that induces a flood of neurochemicals. These chemicals increase blood flow to the brain and heart, which induces relaxation.

The “Blue Mind” Effect

Marine biologist Wallace J. Nichols wrote a book on the subject of water and its healing powers. It’s called 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.

That may be one of the longest book titles you’ll ever see, but it does a good job of being descriptive about some of the proven benefits of being around water. It’s one of the few books on the topic too. The author raises some interesting points based on his experience as a marine biologist as well as further scientific-backed research he carried out.

In the book, Wallace explains that looking at or being near water can provide a wide range of health benefits. These benefits include reducing stress and anxiety, increasing happiness, lowering our heart rate, and other things that extend beyond just feeling calmer.

He calls this the “blue mind” effect and says it’s a response we have when seeing water. His book explores many reasons why water has this effect on us. Here are two of the key ideas.

There Is a Deep Psychological Link to Our Ancestors

A lot of our behaviors and reactions come from our DNA. This includes how our brains react to seeing water. Wallace says this traces back to how our ancestors behaved thousands of years ago.

Our ancestors were often on the move and in need of finding water as a matter of life and death. For generations, they focused on finding new water sources. When they did so, it triggered a calming response in their brains, something we carry with us to this day.

Water Represents a Source of Life

Water is important for our survival. It covers more than 70% of the Earth’s surface, our bodies consist of almost 70% water, and water makes up more than 70% of two of our most vital organs (our brains and hearts).

Wallace says this is the reason why the sight or sound of water triggers the release of relaxing neurochemicals for most people. Logically, there is a deep biological connection between our brains and the sight of water due to our dependence on it as a source of life.

The “Red Mind” Effect

On another note, Nichols also talks about the “red mind” state, in which a constant state of anxiety clusters our mind. Nichols explains how this happens as a result of increased urbanization and our constant need for technology. A somewhat recent report shows that 90% of young adults are “constant checkers,” meaning they engage with screens and social media use almost all the time.

It’s interesting to note that when we think about the color red, most of us think about love and passion. However, the psychology of the color red also means danger, power, energy, and war. So, if we look at this from a color psychology perspective, it makes perfect sense to see how blue colors have a calming effect. Even when you cannot physically be around water, looking at images of water makes you feel calmer.

The Benefits of Being Around Water

There’s a reason you feel so at peace when you go to the beach or near the ocean. There’s water. Science continues to look at the marvelous healing power being around water and watching the water has on our mental health and wellbeing. Let’s explore some of the numerous calming effects of water.

It Promotes a Meditative State

The sound of the waves crashing by the shore can alter your brain’s wave patterns to induce a meditative state. All of this can help lower stress levels, promote mental clarity, improve sleeping patterns, and even help with anxiety.

Water Helps with Creativity

Don’t you feel utterly inspired when you’re by the beach? When our brains switch to relax mode, they tend to be more creative. Moving away from all the buzz and busy thoughts to a more calm state can help you feel more inspired and less judgmental of your thoughts.

It Improves Your Fitness Efforts

While being around water won’t make you lose more calories, it will help you improve the benefits of being active. Switching a crowded gym for a walk by the beach and you will train not only your body but also your mind.

Water Is Rich in Negative Ions

For people that believe in the power of energy, water is very rich in negative ions. The power of negative ions helps with your ability to absorb oxygen, improve serotonin levels, and improve your alertness and concentration. Being around water can help you feel rejuvenated and improve your mood and stress levels.

It Puts You In Awe

The awe feeling has many health benefits. However, it turns out it’s scientifically proven to help you stay calm, control temper, make you feel more generous, and expand your sense of vastness. All these effects are similar to what’s known as forest bathing. Or, overall being around nature.

Why Is the Sound of Water So Relaxing?

The calming effect of seeing water uses just one of our senses. The calming effects of water are even greater if we also hear the sounds of water. Whether it’s the loud crash of ocean waves hitting the shore or the soft tapping of raindrops on the window, the sound of water also has a calming effect for most people.

Studies concluded this is due to how our brains interpret noises and how we connect the sounds with images in our brains. Our brains process noises as either threatening or non-threatening. We interpret water as non-threatening, even if it’s loud, crashing waves.

Our brains also connect the sounds of water with calming images stored in our memories. It triggers either personal memories or images we picked up from TV or other media.

However, taking an actual dip in the water is also extremely beneficial to your wellbeing. Being submerged by natural water, like when you’re at the beach or a lake, can invigorate your body. The natural chillness of the water will give your body a naturally soothing treatment that calms you both mentally and physically by calming your nerves. Even warmer waters during summer can help relax your muscles and ease any tensions being held up in your body.

A Note from GR8NESS

If you’re looking for an easy and affordable way to clear your mind, then search for some blue space. You don’t need to go to the beach or the ocean; even your shower will do the trick. Water has the absolute power to give you mental clarity, improve your brain capacity, and make you a happier person almost instantly.

Read more about the science of calm to take advantage of easy relaxation triggers like water.

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Matt
GR8NESS Writer
Matt is a GR8NESS contributing writer on such subjects as pets, CBD, pain relief, sexual health, time management, and family & parenting. When he's not placed in the awkward position of referring to himself in the third person, Matt tries to keep two Dachshunds, an 18-year old daughter, and one wife blissfully happy but not necessarily in that order.
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