I can remember each time I was mad at my parents as a kid.
To be honest, it wasn’t all that much, but each time I always ended up at one of two places; the creek or the ditch behind the house. I’m not sure if it was because I needed time to think, or if watching the water skippers skim the top of the water calmed me and reminded me of the bigger picture. Fast forward 25 years and I find myself doing the same thing: grabbing my paddleboard and getting on the river where I can find a quiet place to sit and reflect.
For a long time, I thought it was just me and my thinking place. However, after J. Nichols' book, Blue Mind, I learned there was research behind what happens to our brain when we are close to water. Water is more than just a form of recreation and hydration, it alters our brain. Whether you are kiteboarding, sitting by a ditch with a creek, or paddleboarding on a lake, our brains become more relaxed and more connected to the water around us.
Four Ways Water Changes Us
1. Water Calms You
Water has a calming effect on your nervous system. For centuries people have gone near water to think, help clear their heads, and wrestle with hard topics. There’s a reason calming music has ocean waves or rain in the background-these things take our fight or flight reflex down and restore us to neutral.
2. Water Challenges You.
Water-resistance is both a challenging and safe way to exercise. If you’re a runner and have ever tried swimming, you’ll find a challenge in breathing that you don’t have while running. For people with limitations or injuries, water can be a great way to maintain muscles and keep your cardiovascular system healthy.
Whether it’s surfing, swimming, or sailing, water can be a challenge. Even though many elements of water are repetitive (ocean waves, slight trickles in a stream), it’s also everchanging. Weathering storms and catching waves are ways that water can challenge our limits and help us to grow.
2. Water Reduces Stress.
Being in a calmer state of mind for more days out of the year could significantly reduce stress in your life, and what does less stress lead to? Fewer overall health problems, happier relationships, and a more balanced “you” in your day-to-day.
2. Water Better Connects Us with Nature
We protect what we love. Standing above the water on a paddleboard, you’ll see fish, seaweed, and waterbirds. Walking down a creek you might see small fish or raccoons. By spending more time in nature we begin to see the animals and habitats those little bits of trash effect. We begin to understand the positive and negative changes in our waterways, and we are more likely to want to preserve them.
We are all hustling and overcoming daily struggles and stresses. There’s rent, kids’ soccer, and college course finals. We don’t want to wade through those things treating them as just the “boring” parts of life, because they’re real. Life is made up of more than just “the grind,” it is made up of the moments where we feel alive and connected. Creating a happier, healthier life can be done by simply sitting by a creek.