Living Near Water Bodies Makes You Happier, Research Shows

Living Near Water Bodies Makes You Happier, Research Shows

If you've ever thought you'd just be happier living on the beach...well, now there's research to confirm that.

If you've ever felt a sense of peace and contentment while at your annual beach vacation, you'll be happy to know that it's backed up by science. Several studies have shown that living near a body of water actually makes you happier. Blue Mind, a book written by biologist Dr. Wallace J. Nichols, explains exactly how this works, and how living near a lake, ocean, or sea is beneficial to your mental health. “Today’s world has us constantly connected to our phones, working longer hours and taking less vacation time, making us more anxious and stressed – something I call ‘Red Mind’,” Nichols told PEOPLE. “By contrast, ‘Blue Mind’ is a meditative state associated with being on or near the water that can bring on feelings of calm, peacefulness and general happiness.”


Nichols has spent over two decades researching our relationship with water and has found that proximity to any kind of water in nature can bring a sense of calm. He explains that water lowers stress and anxiety, increasing an overall sense of well-being and happiness, a lower heart and breathing rate, and safe, better workouts. "Aquatic therapists are increasingly looking to the water to help treat and manage PTSD, addiction, anxiety disorders, autism and more," he said.  According to a 2016 study by UK-based project Blue Gym, "individuals living near the coast are generally healthier and happier than those living inland". And according to CN Traveller, people are more than willing to pay for that happiness: real estate data shows that waterfront properties cost up to a 116.1% premium over properties without a view of a water body. 


Research also shows that being near a body of water makes sleep easier. “There is some research that says people may sleep better when they are adjacent to nature,” says W. Christopher Winter, author of The Sleep Solution. “No wonder sleep machines always feature the sounds of rain, the ocean, or a flowing river.” Nichols also adds that one is cut off from the "rattle and hum of modern society" when by the water. Moving water is expert at masking noise, especially the sound of the human voice,” he said, adding that the human voice is considered the number one source of workplace stress. A UK study last year measured the heart rates of people as they watched an empty tank of water, a partially-stocked aquarium tank with fish and plants, and then a fully-stocked tank which contained double the number of animal species. "It is clear that human beings are drawn to, and may gain benefits from, natural environments," says the introduction of the study, which found that while staring at an empty tank of water lowered blood pressure and heart rates, the therapeutic benefits grew as more biodiversity was added. A 2002 study also observed beneficial changes in patients with Alzheimer’s disease following the introduction of a fish tank in the activity or dining room. 


“Our oceans, waterways, and the life they contain are so much more than their ecological, economic, and educational value. They have vast emotional benefits. They make life on earth possible, but also worth living,”  Nichols says. “I like to imagine the world would be a better place if we all understood just how true that is. Water is medicine, for everyone, for life.”

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