If the mere sight of water instantly brings you peace, it's not just you. According to author and marine biologist Dr. Wallace J. Nichols, PhD, there's an explanation for why we experience such positive effects when we're around it. "Water is considered the elixir of life," he told POPSUGAR. "It covers more than 70 percent of the earth's surface, makes up nearly 70 percent of our bodies, and constitutes over 70 percent of our heart and brains. This biological connection has been shown to trigger an immediate response in our brains when we're near water." In fact, being close to water can benefit your health in ways you didn't expect.
Dr. Nichols explained how simply seeing water can induce a flood of neurochemicals that increase blood flow to the brain and heart, and as a result, promote overall wellness and relaxation. But it doesn't stop there. The sound of water has similar calming effects while immersing yourself in water has shown to help treat a variety of neurological and physical ailments on top of improving mental health.
"A lifelong relationship to water, facilitated through activities like boating and water sports, for example, brings vast cognitive, emotional, psychological, social, and spiritual health benefits," Dr. Nichols said. "These activities also tender the added positive rewards of exercise and social time with others in the context of the great outdoors."
The body of water — whether you're by the ocean or lake or even floating in a swimming pool — doesn't quite matter. However, participating in water sports like boating can possibly heighten the experience and provide a "blue mind" state, according to Dr. Nichols. "Blue mind" is like a meditative state that can bring on feelings of calm, peacefulness, unity, and general happiness. This contrasts "red mind," which is characterized by feelings of stress, anxiety, and fear. Consider it the state that many of us are constantly in thanks to modern living. "The boat is the greatest technology ever invented to access and explore a vast world of blue-mind benefits on the water and escape the red-mind mode of an anxious and distracted life on land," he said.
So, does that mean you should book that beach vacation? Absolutely. According to a Discover Boating survey conducted by Wakefield Research, four in five Americans say being around water relaxes them, and 72 percent feel healthier after spending time on the water. And the fact that many travelers try to unplug on a relaxing getaway only adds to the perks.
"Doing absolutely nothing, like lying on the beach, is a lost art in our hyperconnected society," Dr. Nichols said. "It is more important than ever as time spent in nature, especially when it involves water, is a valuable way to offset the stresses of living and working in modern contexts."
The next time you can't decide on whether you should take a much-needed vacation, do it for your health.