How Being Around Water Can Improve Your Mood

If you're a "Hamilton" fan, you have Lin-Manuel Miranda's vacation to thank. Miranda told Huffington Post that he was on a vacation in Mexico after working on Broadway for seven years, and "the moment my brain got a moment's rest, 'Hamilton' walked into it." He's not unique. Being able to step away from work and the habits of daily life can result in creative boosts, and the U.S. Travel Association discovered that employees who take all their vacation days are happier than their colleagues who don't. Going on a vacation — whether it's with family and friends or a solo trip — really does have positive mental and physical benefits, including lowering stress and increasing heart health, per Travel + Leisure.

However, as much as we might want to go on a long vacation, sometimes we may not have the time or ability to do so. Instead, you can head to your nearest lake, river, or ocean to get vacation-like benefits of increased happiness and lowered stress. Or really amp up your vacay's relaxation by spending time out on the water. Researchers have found that two hours a week on or near water can increase health and happiness, per The Guardian.

Gazing at water can induce a meditative state

Research on the impacts of water on people's physical and mental wellbeing is growing. Dr. Lewis Elliott, a lecturer at University of Exeter who researches the natural world's impact on health, told The Guardian that those who go to the coast "at least twice weekly tend to experience better general and mental health" compared to those who don't. And their research determined that while spending time in green spaces like forests was good for mental and emotional health, time in blue spaces resulted in even more of a boost.

Looking out at water can leave you blissed out and relaxed. And there's a phrase for that. Marine biologist Wallace J. Nichols coined the term "blue mind" in his 2014 book of the same name as the "mildly meditative state characterized by calm, peacefulness, unity, and a sense of general happiness and satisfaction with life in the moment," per Ocean Bites. Being in a state of meditation, according to the Mayo Clinic, has physical benefits, including improving your quality of sleep and lowering stress, blood pressure, and resting heart rate.

Blue is calming and a creativity boost

The "blue mind" state can also be considered a type of "soft fascination," where you're fully present and engaged by less active stimulation while in nature, as compared to "hard fascination," where you're focusing on highly stimulating things like a video game or a TV show, according to researchers Rachel and Stephen Kaplan and Kaplan, per Positive Psychology. States of "soft fascination" allow for more self-reflection, relaxation, and restoration.

Calming benefits of being around water also come from its color: shades of blue. A worldwide survey found that navy blue and turquoise were considered the most calming colors, via IFL Science. Blue can also help boost creativity. A University of British Columbia scientific study discovered that the color blue was twice as effective in generating creative ideas compared to the color red, per Science Daily. So perhaps take a notebook with you to the beach or out on a boat, you don't know what idea might come to you!

Water sounds are calming and sailing can help PTSD

The sounds of water also have calming effects. Think of how many sleep apps feature tracks like ocean waves crashing on the beach, gentle rainstorm, and babbling brook, said Orfeu Buxton, associate professor of biobehavioral health to Live Science. "These slow, whooshing noises are the sounds of non-threats, which is why they work to calm people."

Being out on the water has even been used to treat PTSD. In Israel, "The Boat Is Sailing" program was founded in 2005 to help unemployed Israeli veterans with PTSD, and it involves them sailing together as a group, via NBC News. Along with the relaxing effects of being near water, learning how to sail and working together helps them deal with symptoms of their PTSD. One participant told NBC News that when he was sailing was "the only place where [he could] get rid of the post-trauma."

Discover Boating can help you get out on the water

If you want to really surround yourself with blue water, you'll most likely need to get out on a boat. The bonus is that it will also help harness the mental and emotional benefits of fresh air and sunshine, per Healthline. But you don't have to have your own boat to be able to take advantage of the benefits of being out on the water. Discover Boating helps get everybody out on the water, boat owner or not, by connecting people with boat rentals and boat charters. They also have resources for you to be able to try out different boats — from personal watercraft to yachts to dinghies.

You'll be in good company if you end up buying a boat. In fact, the past two years saw more and more people buying boats, per Business Wire. And you may be all the better for it because survey of boaters vs non-boaters said boaters reported higher self-esteem, better health, closer families, and even better sex lives, per The Dispatch.