When I think of the sensation of being in water, or surrounded by nature’s great water features, I think of its calming effect, of how it relaxes me and quietens my mind, enabling me to find inspiration and think creatively. I can even refer to its wider healing properties – in terms of de-stressing and releasing tension – both physically and mentally, and generally recalibrating the body and mind. In Chinese medicine for example, the water element represents a balancing of the body, creating a sense of physical harmony, of peace.
Water has this power to create a sense of mental tranquility and clarity, of distraction from the everyday. Think about the sensation of going underwater; noise is muffled, external stimuli are drowned out, you feel the beat of your pulse in your ear drums and you get that all-important cognitive break, giving your brain a rest from overstimulation.
Many of us travel far and wide to experience idyllic settings surrounded by water – great oceans, beautiful lakes, breathtaking waterfalls – these scenes are awe-inspiring and they make us feel good. We get that reminder of being a simple microcosm within the vast macrocosm of the universe. It’s that feeling of ‘being at one’ with nature, letting yourself feel the experience, and often getting a bit of a reality check.
Here are 7 examples to prove that water really can have an incredibly calming effect over us.
1. Taking a bath
You come home from a hectic day at work, or your body aches from an intense gym session, and you run a bath to unwind and relax. Your body is immersed in water and you feel that sense of buoyancy, you feel a little lighter – both physically and mentally. The warm water helps to ease tension physically, as your muscles elongate from their shortened (tense) position, into a relaxed state. The same goes for your mind, as you move from a state of mental tension to a more relaxed mode.
2. Beachside walks
This could be a simple walk along the beach, or a more challenging run through the sand – whether you go for the former or the latter, we all know that exercise is good for you, and we know that water can have a calming effect on the body, so why not bring both elements together for an effective physical and mental release.
3. Water-filled sensory deprivation pods
I talk from experience with this one, having tried out a sensory deprivation pod in LA last year. It’s almost as if you need to focus on not focusing, until you reach that meditative state which disengages the brain from everyday stimulation, engaging the brain’s ‘default mode network’ – a network associated with imagination, insight, introspection and daydreaming. It’s this semi-daydream state which allows the mind to open up to ideas and an alternative way of thinking – hence our great ‘Eureka’ moments.
This one’s a personal favourite; whether I am doing lengths in a swimming pool, or paddling in the sea, the activity of swimming is an active form of meditation and for me, it provides a sense of disconnect from the hustle and bustle, which we all need from time to time (or most days of the week). Not only is swimming a great all-body workout, it allows our brains to relax, and maybe even untangle a creative knot – in fact, I came up with this blog post while swimming the other day.
5. The soothing sound of the sea
There have been numerous studies into the effects of living by the sea, and what has been termed ‘blue space’ and the positive effects this can have on our wellbeing. It’s the whole sensory experience – the visuals, the sounds, the physical feeling of weightlessness in water. I could stare at the ocean for hours, engaging that sense of gentle awareness, of calm focus. It’s why we choose hotel rooms with those ocean views, right?
6. Summer lake trips
So many of us build our travel plans around nature, and a summer stay lakeside is a massively popular option, what with all the water sports you can do – from kayaking to wake surfing, swimming and stand-up paddleboarding. Being around nature, playing in the water, keeping active and hanging out with family and friends – what’s not to love?
7. The sound of rain
This is less relevant living in Dubai, but there is something about the sound of rain that is quite soothing. Bear in mind, I am saying this from the standpoint of being warm and dry indoors, hearing the rain lashing against the window as you curl up with a book, or watch your favourite series on Netflix. If I am in central London waiting in line for the next bus and the rain is coming at me from every direction, then I would find it a little less relaxing. It’s all about the context though.
Take a moment to pause and recognise the feelings you have next time you do one of these activities, just to acknowledge those sensations and marvel at the calming effect that something so simple can have.