Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Blue Mind: The Book

Fitting that on World Water Day (March 22nd) I wrapped up Wallace J. Nichol's Book 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. (It's amazing what you can accomplish when you have a 5 hour layover between flights!)

Fitting too, to share these thoughts during Earth Week!

In reading this book (which came recommended from a colleague at school), it made me realize why I love my pool so. Now that Spring has sprung and the warming has begun, I've got some of my neighborhood hot spots and watering holes on my mind. Also, I have a greater intention to get there more often.

Here are some take aways from this brain-based, research-backed book on the effects of water on the brain and body... and the science of happiness:

💧The key questions of the book: “What is water? Why are we humans so enthralled by water? Why is this question so obvious and important, yet so hard to adequately answer?” ( page xviii)

💧“The name for this human-water connection: Blue Mind, a mildly meditative state characterized by calm, peaceful, unity, and a sense of general satisfaction with life in the moment. It is inspired by water and elements associated with water, from to color blue to the words we use to describe the sensations associated with immersion.” (page 6) Some of those "words" that have infiltrated our vocabulary: Times when we are 'in the flow' of creativity; when we have 'waves of emotions;' we can feel like 'fish out of water' when we are uncomfortable; or we might have a 'sea of questions.' There's a million of them!

💧The opposite of Blue Mind? Red Mind. A more attention-to-detail, stress-driven, anxiety-fear-anger-ridden mind. The mind that lives in this age of instant-global-connection, hyper-aware, tech-driven world that has us always overstimulated, over-stressed, over-screened. The exact reason why we need to let go of multitasking and spend more time being digitally mindful. Just like in Florence Williams' book Nature Fix (which this is a great companion piece for), being in nature (near water particularly with Blue Mind) gives our frontal lobe a break and helps equalize our emotions and build our empathy. Empathy--what connects us to all things (and perhaps what is missing when it comes to the polarized political world in which we all are living--and needing to disconnect from!)

💧Which of these lists sounds better and more helpful?
  1. Nature Immersion therapy, Spa Bathing, Hydrotherapy, Eco Therapy, and Wilderness Therapy
  2. “Monkey mind. Toxic stress. Chronic stress. Stress overload. Directed attention fatigue. Mental fatigue.” (page 140)
💧“What if your doctor handed you a prescription for stress or ill health that read, ‘Take 2 waves, a beach walk, and some flowing river, and call me in the morning?’” (page 141)

💧Water has power. It is a basic human need. As Americans, we use 80-100 gallons a day. Yet we know that approx 1 in 10 people in the world don't have access to clean water. (Roughly 663 million!) Our bodies are made up of 78% water. Water energizes us via hydration, water splashed on our face, or even just our proximity to it. If climate change doesn't get addressed, the waters will rise and coastal communities will be in danger.

💧Water is also a 5-senses experience:
  • See: Light takes on a new look when playing on water.
  • Taste & Smell: You can smell and taste the saltiness near ocean water or smell the freshness after a good rain. Smells can also trigger memories.
  • Sound: I can hear it now: the waterfalls, the swish of waves, even the trickling of water in a stream or the rain hitting the wind.
  • Feel: We feel like we weigh less in water and we notice it in our buoyancy. Water exercise or aquatherapy is highly beneficial due to this. I know my aging knees certainly are much more capable in the pool than on land these days! Additionally, between the water pressure, the flotation sensation, and all of the above--our senses tend to come more alive in or near the water! 
💧There are 3 perspectives when it comes to people and nature:
  1. Egocentric is when you put yourself at the center and only can see what nature can do for you personally.
  2. Anthropogenic is when you broaden from the self and consider everyone, but more "how nature serves humanities needs and desires." (page 250)
  3. Biocentric is when you see "humanity as part of nature, rather than separate." (p. 250) It broadens the perspective to help you realize that you are part of something bigger than yourself. By connecting with nature or water, you become not only more engaged and attentive, but also more invested. You begin to care... which leads to empathy and an emotional drive to take care of it so you can share it with others. 
💧“Being in nature quiets my mind, and out of that quietness is where the real art happens." ~ Sculptor David Eisenhower (page 223)

💧"The real voyage of discovery consists not so much in seeking new territory, but possibly in having new sets of eyes." ~ Marcel Proust (page 269)

💧“I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.” ~ John Burroughs (page 84)

Rereading this list and thinking about my blue mind, it's made me realize just how much of an aquaphile I really am! No wonder we gravitated toward a water-oriented vacation for this summer ahead! 💧

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