How Blue Spaces Can Improve Our Health & Well Being

Looking at Earth from outer space, all of that blue you see is water. Hence its’ nickname, “The Big Blue Marble”, 71% of our planet’s surface is covered by, what Biologists refer as blue spacesBut did you know all of that blue space holds mystical powers? It’s been proven that blue space environments can actually help improve our health and well being! So, we’re going to show you how that liquid mojo is a nature’s #1 morale booster and mind-clearing motivator!

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What are Blue Spaces?

Earth - Blue Spaces and Green Spaces

“Blue spaces are accessible outdoor places on the water where people can also recreate or relax.”

No doubt, you’ve hear the term green space. Green spaces are either partly or completely covered with vegetation, trees, shrubs or grass. They are portions of the land environment that offers a place to enjoy, explore or recreate freely.

In urban locations, green spaces can range from small parks, botanic gardens to outdoor sports complexes. They can also include bicycle trails, playgrounds, and cemeteries.

But, what exactly are blue spaces?

Blue Spaces is a collective term to describe outdoor natural environments that feature water; such as lakes, rivers and oceans.

What’s cool though is several scientific case studies  conclude those who live, work and recreate in these biodiverse outdoor environments experience more positive mental health effects over those who live, work and play on dry land.

A blue spaces can be rivers or ponds where anglers go to fish. Or, it can be large or small lakes where kayaker can paddle or the sea where ocean lovers can go to snorkeling, scuba diving or sailing.

And though these natural water features may or may not be a brilliant hue, as elements of the natural environment, blue spaces are necessary essentials to humans.

Why blue spaces are so important to our health?

Blue Space - Snorkeling with Fish

You’ve probably heard your Shrink tell you once or twice that you need to go to on an island vacation for a little R&R (rest and relaxation). Well, there’s reason your head doctor prescribes that H2O vacay.

Aside from the positive impact that blue spaces have on the environment, being near or recreating on the water is essential to your wellness. Studies are finding that blue spaces play a positive yet indirect role in a person’s health; both physically and mentally.

Simply put, water is therapeutic. Just like hydrotherapy uses of water to sooth pain and treats certain medical conditions, blue space therapy aids in mental health healing. (BTW, I made that ‘blue space therapy’ up but that’s what I’ll call it).

You’ve probably have heard some of your family or friends say that they feel refreshed after a day on the water. Or, they may tell you, “sailing calms my soul” or, “a boat ride will help clear my head”.

And when you’re husband tells you fishing is his therapy, he’s actually spot on. In fact, all of them are spot on.

Even my own experience, anytime I sit in my kayak and dip my paddle into the water, my blood pressure instantly goes down. And, my feeling of well being hits it’s own utopia.

I mean seriously, have you really ever heard someone complain about their bad day on the water? Yeah, I didn’t think so.

Even hard-working fishermen, crabbers and scallopers on the high seas will tell you, “a bad day on the water is better than a good day at work”. They work on the water because they WANT to work on the water.

And according to scientific research, as children who were brought up on the water, their brains are already programmed therapeutically to think positive.

So, it’s much deeper than the environmental reasons of why we need blue spaces. 

The medical science behind blue spaces?

Blue Spaces - Kid Jumping Off Pier into Water

There was a case study that analyzes the social benefits associated with the School Nautical Activities project carried out in Viana do Castelo (Portugal) in school-age children and adolescents.

The 4 year student program that concentrated on outdoor blue space activities such as canoeing, rowing, sailing and surfing as part of their physical education course.

Through participation in those outdoor water activities, the results revealed much improvement in their social behavior, overall education, mental health and well-being, and environmental awareness.

Findings concluded that more than 40% of the students stated that their overall health is much better now due to their participation in the program.

This proves that children who participate in blue space activities are improving their physical and mental health. Seriously, who hasn’t met a kid who didn’t like going to the beach? And aren’t YOU happier when they come home exhaustedly happy?

Kids Snorkeling on the Beach

In other studies, there are findings that people who were regularly exposed to blue spaces as children, are more apt to visit them as adults. And they seem to be more in tune with nature as well as a deepening respect for our natural aquatic environments.

According to a recent research review, recreation and therapeutic use of blue spaces, including lakes, rivers, and coastal regions, do actually promote better mental health and psychosocial well-being.

Going in a different direction, this makes perfect sense of why countless Veteran post-war recovery organizations provide outdoor programs that include fishing, paddling, rafting, swimming and other therapeutic activities in the natural blue space environments.

They help Vets (and some first responders) with PTSD or severe anxiety through relaxation exercises and stress reduction through therapeutic water activities outdoors.

Blue Space - Scuba Diving

Just a few prominent Military Veteran Programs that include Blue Space outdoor activities:

Are you a Blue Space person?

Blue Space - Paddle Boarding - Paddle Board Paddling

As I’ve discovered while traveling and hanging around nomads like ourselves, there are two types of outdoorsy people. Well, three actually, but let’s just simplify by saying there’s two.

One of those are what you call “green space people”. They prefer to recreate in mountains, desert and anywhere they don’t require sea legs. Green Space people are backpackers, hikers, climbers, hunters, bicycle riders, etc.

The other type of outdoor recreation seekers are “blue space people”. They enjoy doing things on the water, hence why it’s called blue space. The blue space type enjoys recreating on the water; fishing, boating, swimming, snorkeling, scuba diving, paddling, cruises and all things water.

While most people feel a connection to nature, those who live or recreate in blue spaces are found to be linked to better mental health.

Now, I’m not saying that those who prefer green spaces more are sad or angry. But I have to honestly say the water does have a more therapeutic appeal. 

This sort of explains why it seems that people who live on the beach for example, are happy people. For a lack of better term, they seem to be more grounded which is a funny oxymoron for water lovers. 

“Spending time in blue spaces such as beaches, rivers, and lakes as a child can have significant and lasting benefits for wellbeing throughout life.” – Journal of Environmental Psychology

Born a water baby with sea legs

Lady on Beach Chair at Ocean

Crediting John Muir with his “the mountains are calling and I must go!” quote, those who love the water could similarily quote, “the sea is calling and I must go!”.

Not that I dislike the mountains, deserts, canyons and prairies. In fact, since we’ve become RVers and traveling extensively, I’ve grown to love green spaces and all that’s between the shores.

But, there’s just something that I can’t seem to put my finger on that magnetizes me towards the water. Looking at some of our Instagram or Facebook photos of places we recreate, I seem to be happiest when we’re near the blue water meets the blue sky. It doesn’t matter if it’s an ocean or small lake.

Perhaps it comes from my childhood past? Well, ironically, after reading a few studies, it actually may.

Those blue space studies above pretty much explain why I chose a a U.S. Coast Guard career in my young adult years. Having been raised as a child on the Great Lakes, I now admit, there’s a certain gravitational pull to serve, work and live on the water.

Although I wasn’t born under the sign of Pisces, I’m confident to say that I was born with sea legs. My Daddy was a Coast Guardsmen serving on big Coast Guard Cutters worldwide to small rescue boats on U.S. shores. Ironically, my first home was on an island in Greece where he was stationed.

Sadly though, a year after I was born, I lost my Daddy to a tragic death; sending my family to my mother’s hometown, Erie, Pennsylvania to raise my brother and I. Erie sits right on the southern coast of Lake Erie smack dab between Buffalo, New York and Cleveland, Ohio.

As a child, I mastered how to swim, skip rocks, beachcomb and operate a boat on the lake. I spent most of my high school summers riding my bike down to Freeport beach. Or, I’d pile into the car with my friends to drive to Presque Isle State Park on the peninsula. (Thankfully, I never got caught!)

And having been raised on the Great Lakes, I’ve been ingrained to possess a deep respect for the water, no matter how deep, wide, big or tall the blue space water feature is. But I also found myself more at peace around the water than I do at hiking and bicycling.

Whether it was sitting on the bow of our family’s boat with my face in the wind like a dog or hooking a line for sunfish at the dock. The liquid beneath me felt like home. Even when it’s just sitting quietly while watching the sunset over the small crests of the waves.

That and continuing my Daddy’s legacy led me to choosing to serve in the smallest branch of service that rescues those in peril on the water. Even on my crappiest days at sea getting the tar beat out of us in 20′ swells or 10′ chops, only my fellow Cuttermen and Pseidon understand.

But even now, decades later, I can honestly say that my love for blue space never left me. While we enjoy seeking travel in places like the mountains, desert and badlands, for some reason, I always feel summonsed to do things on the water.

Hence, my love for Aquaman and mermaids, sea turtles, swimming with the manatees, ocean wildlife (except sharks…I’m not fond of sharks), kayaking, sunset sails, and whale watches. And dare I say how much I enjoy staring blissfully at waterfalls. 

In fact, someday I hope to help the sea turtles migrate to their nesting places in Florida.

And, if I had to make a color choice, I choose blue. Because the water is not just a destination. In my opinion, blue space is a my calm and feeling of well being.

Blue Space - Kayaking Kayak

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Wrapping up why blue spaces are so important to our mental health

Couple in Loungers on Beach

So, as you’ve just read, blue spaces are far more than “the sun and the sand with a drink in my hand” or some blimey sea shanty.

Not only do they provide places to recreate and learn about the water environments, blue spaces are also proven to help people with anxiety, PTSD, and social development. As well, the natural water environment helps to promote good mental health and wellness. So now you can hopefully understand why so many say, “the beach or sea is my happy place”.

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