Keeping the blues at bay

The increasingly popular Blue Mind Therapy claims that the meditative state we fall into when near water promotes wellbeing
PHOTO BY ARTEM BELIAIKIN ON UNSPLASH
PHOTO BY ARTEM BELIAIKIN ON UNSPLASH

Being stressed and anxious is a constant state of being for most of us today. But a new kind of therapy promises to get rid of our lives’ unending tensions and pressures just by accessing water. “Blue Mind Therapy is a treatment that involves aquatic environments and could cure blues almost for free,” says Delhi-based therapist Dr Sreeja De. The concept of water’s therapeutic use in daily lives was first highlighted by marine biologist and author of the 2014 book Blue Mind, Wallace Nichols.

In the book, Nichols says, “People can experience the benefits of the water whether they’re near the ocean, a lake, river, swimming pool or even listening to the soothing sound of a fountain. Most communities are built near bodies of water not just for practical reasons, but because as humans, we’re naturally drawn to blue space. Even if you aren’t in an area where there is easy access to water, you can still experience emotional benefits.” Now, experts are quantifying the positive effects of water.

According to a study conducted by University of Exeter, UK, in September 2019, living close to coastal areas has been directly linked to lower rates of depression. “It turns out that living by coasts leads to an improved sense of physical health and well-being. And contact with water induces a meditative state that makes us happier, healthier, calmer, more creative, and more capable of awe,” explains De. Besides the plentiful benefits of drinking water, exercising in water has been associated with numerous advantages as well. Water is said to ward off the depression and anxiety created by the increasing technological changes. “Almost all of the senses are engaged when we are near water—sight, smell, hearing, and touch, and this physical immersion, in reality, makes us feel better, even though we sometimes imagine we can’t part with our phones and computers,” adds De.  

Weighing in on the advantages of water, Dr Vishal Kashyap, principal psychiatric consultant at Max Hospital, Vaishali, Ghaziabad, says, “Water covers more than 70 per cent of the earth’s surface, makes up nearly 70 per cent of our bodies. It has a biological connection and that triggers an immediate response in our brains when we’re near water. In fact, just the sight and sound of water can induce a flood of neurochemicals that promote wellness, increase blood flow to the brain and heart and induce relaxation.” Interestingly, some countries are putting this knowledge to use and looking to promote water into a tool to promote people’s health.

The European Union in 2016 initiated Blue Health 2020, which examines the effects of aquatic environments on body and mind, with the goal of exploring the best ways to use water to improve the well-being of people in busy cities. “The majority of Europe’s population live in urban areas characterised by inland waterways and coastal margins,” the programme website explains. But what about the population that lives in landlocked areas without access to water bodies? “Even something as simple as a hot shower can have a calming effect on the mind. Those who do not live near lakes or rivers, should consider visiting such areas for downtime. Introducing a small fountain in the living room or even having an aquarium at home can have calming effects,” points out Kashyap. 

He also advises looking at images of water. “There are many alternatives. The shower is a proxy for the ocean because the video and audio sounds can make a difference. Auditorily, it’s the same thing—it’s a steady stream of ‘blue noise’.” Mumbai-based therapist Ruchita Mishra recommends listening to the sound of water to clear the mind. “Listening to the sound of waves or water rustling is a meditative act. The Blue Mind Therapy is often recommended for those with chronic cases of depression or suffering from anxiety. As opposed to medication, water is an excellent alternative to calm the mind,” she says. 

BLOW OFF THE STEAM

Take a Bath: Hot shower boosts creativity and unties the knots in the body at the end of a long day. Hot and cold contrast baths used by athletes ease strained muscles.
Go Fishing: Angling is considered relaxing, since one has to interact with the water. Studies have found that fishing helps heal the effects of posttraumatic stress disorder.

Drink Some Water: The human body and the brain is about 80 per cent water by volume. Consuming enough water is a requirement of healthy brain function.

Go Swimming: Muscles constantly stretching and relaxing, accompanied by rhythmic breathing, all of which help put swimmers in an almost meditative state.

Get a Fountain: One doesn’t need to close their eyes to meditate to realise the healing effects of water. Even recorded sights and sounds of water have a quieting effect.

Visit an Aquarium: A study by the National Marine Aquarium, England, reported that those who spent a minimum of 10 minutes observing aquarium tanks were more relaxed.

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