Did you know blue spaces are found to hold some sort of mystical power that aids in good health? Blue spaces are being proven that natural water environments have some sort of secret liquid mojo that is actually becoming the #1 morale booster and mind-clearing motivator! In fact, living and recreating near blue spaces is actually taking the place of anxiety medications for some who suffer from mental illnesses!
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What is Blue Space?
How Blue Spaces Boost Mental Health & Well Being
“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 is a blue space?
Blue Space 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 space 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 snorkel, scuba dive or sail.
And though these natural water features may or may not appear as a brilliant turquoise or cobalt element of the natural environment, blue spaces are necessary essentials to humans for health and healing.
Why blue spaces are so important to our health?
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?
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?
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.
Just a few prominent Military Veteran Programs that include Blue Space outdoor activities:
- Veterans R and R Outdoors
- Dive Pirates
- Team FB4V
- Sierra Club
- Team River Runner
- Veteran Adaptive Sports
- Warrior Expeditions
- Veterans Community Response Combat Veteran Retreats
- Warfighter Scuba
- Take a Vet Fishing
- Northwest Steelheaders
- Veterans Afield Foundation
- Project Healing Waters
- Heroes on the Water
- Mission Outdoors
- Operation Reboot Outdoors
- Outward Bound
Are YOU a Blue Space person?
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.
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My love for blue spaces!
“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
Crediting John Muir with his “the mountains are calling and I must go!” quote, those who love the water could similarly quote, “the sea is calling and I must go!”. Ok, I made that up, but really, what’s the difference?
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, small lake or even searching for Pupfish in a hot spring in Death Valley.
Perhaps it comes from my childhood past? I’ve learned that it actually may be.Those blue space studies above pretty much explain why I chose a career in the U.S. Coast Guard in my younger years.
And, having been raised on the Great Lakes, I now understand that certain gravitational pull to live, play and work on the water.
See, my Daddy was a Coast Guardsmen serving on big Coast Guard Cutters abroad and small rescue boats on U.S. shores. Interestingly, I was an island girl way before being an island girl became a thing. My first home as a baby was on a Greek Isle on the Mediterranean Sea.
But sadly, right after my first birthday, I lost my Daddy to a tragic death. Thus, sending my family back to my mother’s hometown of Erie, Pennsylvania. If you don’t know where Erie is, the small city sits on the southern coast of Lake Erie between Buffalo and Cleveland.
Growing up as a Great Lakes girl, I mastered how to swim, skip rocks, collect beach rocks and shells and operate a boat on the lake. I spent most of my high school summers riding my bike down to Freeport Beach on Lake Erie.
Or, I’d pile into the car with my friends to drive to Presque Isle State Park on the peninsula to get a little fun in the sun and play in the water.
Having been raised on the Great Lakes, I possess a deepened respect for the water, no matter how deep, wide, big or tall the blue space is. Perhaps I was a mermaid in my past life, who knows?
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. That liquid mojo beneath me felt like home. It would literally melt my troubles away.
So, coupled with my raising, my love for blue space led me to choosing to serve in the smallest branch of service that rescues those in peril on the water just like Daddy. Even on my shittiest days at sea in 20′ swells or 10′ chops, only my fellow Cuttermen, sailors and Pseidon would understand.
Interestingly, even now inching closer to my senior years, I find myself more at peace around the water than I do at hiking and bicycling in the mountains or woods. Even when it’s just sitting quietly watching the sunset over the small crests of the waves, I feel a deep connection with the water.
Now, a decade after traipsing the United States in an RV, I can honestly say that my love for blue space never left me. In fact, whenever I feel stressed, I tell Dan that the sea is calling and I must go!
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.
So, while I love all colors of the rainbow, blue seems to be where my mental gravity leads me. Because the water is not just a destination. It’s a healing calm and feeling of well being.
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✰✰ OUTSIDER TIP ✰✰
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Wrapping up why blue spaces are so important to (y)our mental health
As see, blue spaces are far more than “the sun and the sand with a drink in my hand” or some high seas pirate bellowing sea shanty.
While our oceans, lakes, rivers and even waterfalls provide us places to recreate and learn about aquatic environments, blue spaces are also proven to help people with anxiety, PTSD, and social development. The natural water environment helps to promote good mental health and wellness.
So now you can understand why so many say, “the beach or sea is my happy place”.
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