Blue Mind Theory

Posted on February 26, 2024 by Colette Goh

The Healing Power of Water: The Blue Mind Movement

Close your eyes and think about where you escape to when you want to relax.

If you said something like a beach vacation, a walk by the river, a weekend at the lake, or even a bath, then this article might explain why. 

For centuries people have flocked to water - ocean, lakes, rivers, hot springs - to rest and relax. You see this ritual in many traditions like Nordic ice baths, Turkish Hammam, and Japanese Onsens. Seeking solace in or near bodies of water has long been recognized as therapy and a way to heal the mind and body. But if you’ve ever wondered why and how applicable this is to modern life, read on to learn more about the Blue Mind Theory.

Blue Mind is described as the “mildly meditative state we fall into when near, in, on or under water” says Wallace J. Nichols. He’s the marine biologist who wrote the well-known book “Blue Mind: The surprising science that shows how being near, in, on, or under water can make you happier, healthier, more connected, and better at what you do” in 2014.

His research showed that being close to or in water provides a long list of benefits for our mind and body. This includes an increased sense of well-being and happiness, and lowered stress, anxiety, heart, and breathing rate. Nichols proposes that Blue Mind is the solution to “Red Mind” - or the stressed, over-stimulated state that most of us have experienced in modern life. 

Why does water impact us in this way?

Being around or near water chemically affects our brain and how we feel. It can increase neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine, and oxytocin. Colloquially, these neurotransmitters are referred to as the happiness hormone, the feel-good hormone, and the cuddle hormone. It can also decrease cortisol and stress. 

Bodies of water can also improve your psychological well-being by causing involuntary attention. In psychology, this is defined as attention captured by a prominent or salient stimulus, like in your peripheral vision, rather than focused by a person (