Want to Be Happier? Live Near Water, Research Suggests
There is something about being by the water that tends to induce a sense of calm and well-being, and one marine biologist says living close to a lake, river, sea or ocean actually promotes happiness.
Dr. Wallace J. Nichols, a biologist, wrote a book called Blue Mind which details this phenomena and how living near a body of water can increase a person's overall mental health.
"Today's world has us constantly connected to our phones, working longer hours and taking less vacation time, making us more anxious and stressed – something I call ‘Red Mind'," Nichols told PEOPLE. "By contrast, ‘Blue Mind' is a meditative state associated with being on or near the water that can bring on feelings of calm, peacefulness and general happiness."
Nichols asserts that water actually "lowers stress and anxiety, increasing an overall sense of well-being and happiness, a lower heart and breathing rate, and safe, better workouts. Aquatic therapists are increasingly looking to the water to help treat and manage PTSD, addiction, anxiety disorders, autism and more."
Even before putting the "blue mind" label on it, it's clear that people felt more relaxed by the water; it's a phenomena that certainly accounts for the exorbitant prices for waterfront properties. But the benefits appear to extend to much more than increased happiness, studies show.
Research shows that being near a body of water also helps creativity, and even makes sleep easier, according to Dr. W. Christopher Winter, author of The Sleep Solution.
"There is some research that says people may sleep better when they are adjacent to nature," Winter told Conde Nast Traveler. "No wonder sleep machines always feature the sounds of rain, the ocean, or a flowing river."
A U.K. study last year provided some scientific proof of the phenomenon, as researchers measured the heart rates and blood pressure of people as they watched an empty tank of water, a partially-stocked aquarium tank with fish and plants, and then a fully-stocked tank which contained double the number of animal species.
While the study showed that even staring at an empty tank of water lowered blood pressure and heart rates, the therapeutic benefits grew as more biodiversity was added.
"Our oceans, waterways, and the life they contain are so much more than their ecological, economic, and educational value. They have vast emotional benefits. They make life on earth possible, but also worth living," Nichols added. "I like to imagine the world would be a better place if we all understood just how true that is. Water is medicine, for everyone, for life."