If you stop to think about it, it’s curious. Why do so many of us love to be near the sea? Just to say that the shore is beautiful doesn’t quite explain it. Inland locations are undeniably lovely and also popular. But for millions of us the sea is our go-to happy place.
Which is why the Blue Mind theory is so interesting. Especially its explorations of why being near water makes us happier, healthier and better at the things we do.
The Blue Mind is a book by marine biologist Dr Wallace J. Nichols. Its subtitle is a neat encapsulation of the content: “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”.
Nichols turns to medicine, psychology, economics and neurobiology in his book. He also uses personal stories including those from scientists, athletes and environmentalist. All the time investigating the impact being by the water has on our bodies and our minds.
So why and how does water have such a powerful effect? For Nichols it’s about a number of key themes. On the effect water has on our moods, he explains water captures our “involuntary” attention. This nudges us into a state of “drift”. We become “water gazers” - absorbed in a view that’s both broadly the same and also constantly changing in detail.
We see a seascape but also notice slow, subtle changes in boats moving, birds flying, the state of the tide. This helps us to switch off stress and become almost hypnotised by our surroundings.
As Elle Hunt writes in the Guardian, being beside the sea is good for our physical and mental health. She references a survey of 20,000 smartphone users which found coastal places to be their happiest locations.
Visiting the sea also helps with better general and mental health. It’s partly because the air beside the sea is less polluted and also partly because we tend to be more physically active there - walking, cycling, swimming, surfing. This is “health by stealth”.
The Blue Mind doesn’t just outline some theories. Nichols also presents an appropriately named ‘blueprint’ for a better waterside life. Simple things can help us get the most from time near water. Sitting still beside it and looking at the sea doesn’t just allow us to meditate, says Nichols, it actually triggers a meditative state.
Or try embracing the sense of the being beside the sea as being a time for play. Nichols says water “unleashes the uninhibited child in all of us, unlocking our creativity and curiosity”.
So it’s time to let that childlike joy roam free. Bodyboarding, swimming, playing in the surf. Rockpooling, beach combing, building sandcastles. Making patterns with shells, drawing pictures in the sand. As adults we tend to see these activities as things for children to do. But Nichols might argue they’re exactly what we should all be doing - whether there’s a child with us or not.
Try the Blue Mind Theory at the Driftwood Hotel
So now it’s time to see if some of those techniques work for you. The boutique Driftwood Hotel in south Cornwall allows you to do just that in fine style. Set on the bewitching Roseland Peninsula, this delightful coastal retreat is right beside the shore. Its close to St Mawes and overlooks the turquoise waters of Gerrans Bay.
The beaches around are ideal for perfecting the art of being a water gazer. For being hypnotised by the beautiful details. For barefoot beach-combing, shell pattern-making. For fun and for play. In fact, it’s the perfect spot to unleash some Blue Mind thinking and soak up that vitamin sea.