Having a stressful day? A dip in the pool or a soak in the tub may be just the thing you need to relax. It turns out, just being near water — even virtually — can help boost mental health. “If you are in a body of water, your internal state just becomes calm,” explains Dr. Natalie Azar, NBC News medical contributor. “It's something that I think we've all experienced, but never we've never really been intentional about.”
The reasons why water helps ease anxiety and stress include:
- It creates a sense of awe - Being near water gives us a “sense of something greater than ourselves,” Azar says. “And it expands your mind a little.”
- It provides a soothing sensory experience - The sound, smell and sight of a body of water can be very calming and if it reminds you of something familiar, like the salty air at the beach as a kid, that can add to the soothing, relaxing feeling.
- It can help with mindfulness - "Water is dynamic. It has different colors. It's moving. And so your attention is on that rather than all the noise out there," Azar said. "Also, floating allows your body to rest, and it holds our attention."
- Being near “blue spaces” is good for mental health - A new study finds that people who live near water, in what experts call “blue spaces,” have lower risks for mental health issues.
- Just visiting water helps, too - According to another recent study, people who visit blue spaces frequently also have “less mental distress” and better overall well-being.
- Urban water also counts - If you’re in a city or an area that doesn’t have a natural body of water, canals, fountains, pools and bathtubs can deliver the same feelings of calm.
- And you don’t need to be there physically to get the benefits - If you don’t have any bodies of water to spend time near, you can get the same results from listening to or watching videos of water. Azar says that doing it for just a couple of minutes every day can make a real difference.