The allure of blue spaces, encompassing all waterscapes and their environments, is not just a marketing ploy used in resort advertisements. These spaces have a profound impact on our mental and physical health, akin to the benefits derived from exercise. According to Reena B. Patel, a positive psychologist, blue spaces can enhance physical activity levels, elevate mood, and reduce stress and anxiety.
Blue spaces have been recognized throughout history as places of relaxation, sport, and healing. Modern science supports this, with studies showing that spending time in natural spaces can lower stress levels and reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. Amy Mezulis, PhD, co-founder and chief clinical officer of online therapy platform Joon, explains that blue spaces can help buffer against the effects of stress by reducing sympathetic nervous system activation, lowering cortisol levels, and increasing the ability to access good coping resources.
The sensory input provided by blue spaces, such as the contrasting colors of water against the landscape and the sounds and smells of the water, can cultivate mindfulness, which has both direct and indirect mental health effects. This mindfulness can help slow us down, ground us in the present, and foster a sense of inner peace.
Interestingly, proximity to blue spaces is associated with higher physical activity levels. The more blue spaces near your home, the more likely you are to be active. This is because these spaces often provide opportunities for swimming, rowing, running, biking, and other forms of active recreation. Physical activity in natural spaces has been linked to better mental health outcomes.
To reap these benefits, it’s recommended to intentionally schedule regular time to be in blue spaces and plan physical activities around these opportunities. This could be as simple as taking a walk to a local pond or river, or as adventurous as trying paddleboarding, surfing, or kayaking. The key is to stay present and appreciate the beauty of these spaces.