Friday, September 11, 2015

Blue Mind

In modern life, we all experience chronic stress. Our "always on" lifestyle can eventually result in memory problems, poor judgement, anxiety, depression and over-reliance on alcohol and drugs for relaxation. Current research in cognitive neuroscience indicates that spending time around water shifts your psyche to Blue Mind. Water seems to amplify nature's soothing, healing qualities. A watery environment can provide rest for the brain.

In a natural environment on or near water, there's a high degree of predictability. A body of water is largely the same from moment to moment. This allows our brain to relax. Against this consistent background, the brain continues to search for something that wasn't there before. When the brain notices a disturbance on the surface, like a wave or water bird, there's a sense of novelty and surprise accompanied by a pleasure hit of dopamine. Because bodies of water stay the same and change simultaneously, we experience both soothing familiarity and stimulating novelty. The brain shifts to a state of involuntary attention - essential to creativity and problem solving. This dreamy state is a key characteristic of Blue Mind.

It might be easiest to access Blue Mind at the beach. Near the ocean there is an abundance of negatively charged ions in the atmosphere which have been found to lower blood lactate levels and elevate mood. But there are plenty of ways to interact with water and receive its benefits.

The feel-good effects of swimming are similar to hatha yoga. Muscles are constantly stretching and relaxing accompanied by deep, rhythmic breathing. The combination of cognitive effort and aerobic exercise involved in swimming can provide the brain with the satisfying, stress-reducing feeling of "flow".

One of the huge advantages of water is that you don't need to meditate to realize its healing effects, because it meditates you. Watching and listening to splashing water can produce a quieting effect. In one study, cancer patients experienced a 20-30% reduction in stress hormones after watching a nature video of waterfalls. Even something as modest as a fishbowl or a tiny fountain on your desk can be enough to markedly reduce your body's reaction to stress.

Immersion in water reduces stress, partly by balancing the flux between the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. A 2006 study found that spa bathing significantly reduced levels of salivary gland cortisol in college students. Other studies have found that hot tubs and five-minute hot showers can measurably lower anxiety levels. Hydrotherapy was shown to help reduce the psychological stress and physical symptoms of a group of 139 people with rheumatoid arthritis. Add Epsom salts to assist with muscles soreness.

Connect With Water This Week To Reduce Stress
Stay Active and Enjoy Your Food

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