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Exploring Ecopsychology: Blue Spaces- Water makes you feel better

Updated: Jan 11

Researchers around the globe have become increasingly intrigued by our psychological response to blue spaces: the sea, rivers, lakes, waterfalls, small ponds and fountains.

Rod iron gate foreground with ocean background
Exploring Ecopsychology: Blue Spaces

Does water make you feel better?



Research suggests that psychological connectedness to the natural world, e.g. feeling part of nature or seeing beauty in natural things, is positively associated with positive well-being (Capaldi, 2014) and studies are showing that being near water or blue space is an instant mood-lifter, helping us to be present, less stressed, and to feel more connected (White, 2021). Research also shows that spending at least 120 minutes a week in nature is beneficial and associated with good health and wellbeing (White, 2019).


Proximity to water – especially the sea – is associated with many positive measures of physical and mental wellbeing, from higher levels of vitamin D to better social relations and improved cognitive development in children (White, 2013).



Exploring Ecopsychology: Blue Spaces, Water makes you feel better. Coastal Maine.



The good news is that you don’t need a beach house to benefit from blue spaces, even a fountain may do! White (2021) found that images of built environments containing water were generally rated just as positively as those of only green space. Research also suggests that any water is better than none and results show that frequency of recreational visits to green, inland-blue, and coastal-blue spaces in the last four weeks are positively associated with positive well-being and negatively associated with mental distress - which is a fancy way of saying overall better mental health.


These results suggest that spending recreational time in both green and blue settings may be more important than merely living near nature. This is notable as 90% of people living in urban areas of Europe already have access to a public green space > 0.25 hectares within a 10-min walk of their home (Poelman, 2017), the current research can guide future urban development plans as the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goal [SDG] 11.7 states that by 2030, member states should provide universal access to safe, inclusive and accessible, green and public spaces, particularly for women and children, older persons and persons with disabilities (2020).


Exploring Ecopsychology: Blue Spaces. Water makes you feel better. Town Center, Seelbach Germany

Promoting greater use of these green and blue spaces should be a community and health initiative! And while you can’t change where the coast is, there is nothing to stop adding a well-designed water element to your life!


Exploring Ecopsychology: Blue Spaces. Water makes you feel better. Bodensee, Germany

So consider adding a water element to your garden, perhaps a small fish pond, a tableside fountain next to some indoor plants, or seek solitude next to the sea and meditate near a mountain stream, or head into town and sit near the reflection pool. The research is clear blue spaces are helpful to our overall health. Try to add a little more water to your routine and improve your wellbeing.



How are you connecting with water today, what's in your blue space?


What is SEELEDU and what can SEELEDU do for you?


SEELEDU explores the journey of being human and nurtures nature connections for health and well-being. SEELEDU is based in science and grounded in nature. Practicing in ecopsychology and recognizing the mutual compassion and nurturing ability between nature and humans, SEELEDU offers live and online programming, development and learning for holistic, whole-body well-being.


References:

Capaldi, C. A., Dopko, R. L. & Zelenski, J. M. (2014). The relationship between nature connectedness and happiness: A meta-analysis. Front. Psychol. 5, 976.


Dai, D. (2011). Racial/ethnic and socioeconomic disparities in urban green space accessibility: Where to intervene?. Landsc. Urban Plan. 102, 234–244.


Poelman, H. (2018). A walk to the park? Assessing access to green areas in Europe’s cities, update using completed Copernicus urban atlas data, No. 01/2018, European Commission, Regional and Urban policy (2018). https://ec.europa.eu/regional_policy/sources/docgener/work/2018_01_green_urban_area.pdf.

United Nations. Sustainable development goals: Knowledge Platform. (2020).


White, M.P., Alcock, I., Grellier, J. et al. (2019). Spending at least 120 minutes a week in nature is associated with good health and wellbeing. Sci Rep9, 7730. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-019-44097-3


White, M. P., Alcock, I., Wheeler, B. W. & Depledge, M. H. Would you be happier living in a greener urban area? A fixed-effects analysis of panel data. Psychol Sci24, 920–928 (2013).


White, M.P., Elliott, L.R. Grellier, J., Economou, T., Bell, S., Bratman G.N., Criach, M., Gascon, M., Ojala, A, Roiko, A., Lima, M.L., Lohmus, M., Nieuwenhuijsen, M., Schultz, P. W., van den Bosch, M.A., & Fleming, L.E. (2021). Associations between green/blue spaces and mental health across 18 countries. Scientific Reports, in press







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