According to the National Marine Manufacturers Association Canada, an estimated 12.4 million Canadians enjoy our vast landscape of rivers, lakes and oceans each year — and for good reason. Recent research shows people experience emotional, behavioural and psychological benefits of being near, in, on or under water, and while participating in activities such as boating. One of the leading researchers on the health benefits of the water is Dr. Wallace J. Nichols, Ph.D, a marine biologist and author of Blue Mind, the bestselling book on the scientific connection between water and happiness.
Just in time for summer boating season, Discover Boating Canada, the recreational boating industry’s national campaign to get Canadians on the water and boating, is tapping into Dr. Nichols’ expertise to better understand the impact boating has on our minds and bodies.
“The effect of boating on our lives, and its fundamental connection to our planet’s waters, are well documented from an economic, ecological and educational perspective,” said Dr. Nichols. “But, the relationship of boating to our health has been largely overlooked. We now know, thanks to science, that the mere sight and sound of water promotes wellness by lowering cortisol, increasing serotonin and inducing relaxation. It only makes sense that being on a boat is one of the best ways to access the wellness benefits of the water.”
For the first time, Dr. Nichols is exploring how boating benefits overall health.
Red Mind, Blue Mind
“Red Mind” is a state of mind described as an “edgy-high, characterized by stress, anxiety and fear.” While stressors such as money and work influence people, there are new factors associated with urbanization and a constant tether to technology that offer little respite from the demands of today’s world. In fact, a 2015 Globe and Mail survey report1 found that 60 percent of Canadians go to work feeling stressed, and one in four Canadian workers would describe their lives as highly stressful.
An antidote to “Red Mind” is “Blue Mind” — a mildly meditative state characterized by calm, peacefulness, unity and a sense of general happiness associated with water.
“I have done a tremendous amount of research on the benefits of being near, in, on or under water,” said Dr. Nichols. “The best place to begin is by first considering the negative stressors that go away when we step aboard a boat – the traffic noise, televisions, the office, computers – they all fade away. The boat is the greatest technology ever invented to access and explore a vast world of ‘Blue Mind’ benefits and escape the ‘Red Mind’ mode of an anxious and distracted life on land — although its application is understudied and under-prescribed.”
Your Brain on a Boat
Boating can trigger a restful state. It provides the means to get outside of daily routines, allowing our brains to reset, think beyond current circumstances, and connect to something bigger than ourselves. Being on a boat promotes physiological and psychological changes spanning health, wellness, awe, wonder, creativity, play, happiness and relaxation:
- Boating resets our brain: With Canadians taking less vacation, more than ever people need to restore their minds. Being on the water offers relaxation, restoration and happiness, along with the added benefits of exercise, socializing and connecting with nature.
- Boating is meditative: Doing absolutely nothing is a lost art, but 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.
- Boating is awe-inspiring: Awe is an important emotion that helps us get outside ourselves and is uniquely tied to meaning, purpose, compassion and self-worth. Water is one of the best sources of wonder, and boats allow us to experience this awe.
- Boating promotes play and induces creativity: Stress can inhibit creativity. One of the best remedies is play, which triggers the release of endorphins. Watersports and aquatic activities are a source of play, ushering in the body’s natural feel-good chemicals.
- Boating appeals to our senses: The sight of water can induce a flood of neurochemicals that promote wellness. A lifelong relationship to water, facilitated through boating, brings cognitive, emotional, psychological, social and spiritual benefits for people of all ages and abilities. Fun Fact: the brain is drawn to the colour blue above all colours.
For more information on how to experience “Blue Mind,” visit DiscoverBoating.ca.
Discover Boating is giving away $10,000 toward the purchase of a new or used boat. To enter, download the free “Discover Boating Safety” app at discoverboating.ca/safe-