How 'Blue Spaces' Can Help Improve Your Mental Health

The health benefits of water are widely-known and accepted, but what about the positive effects of watching water? Whether it's a coastal environment, a lake in the mountains, rivers, or a swimming pool, blue spaces are a well-kept secret to happiness. According to The Sydney Morning Herald, blue spaces are natural environments that are water-based (e.g. seas, oceans, and lakes).

Research is starting to show any exposure to blue spaces can have a positive impact on the body. The beach in particular is a prime blue spot as many people associate the beach with relaxation, recharging, and happiness (via WebMD). Additionally, a trip to the beach offers a great change of scenery, helps lower stress, enhances your mood, and increases one's overall sense of wellbeing. Not to mention, beaches are often sunny and according to Healthline, spending time in the sun is an excellent way to increase levels of vitamin D, also known as "the sunshine vitamin".

Psychologist Laura Lee shares that not only are blue spaces therapeutic for mental health, but they are beneficial for physical health too, because there's less air pollution around huge bodies of water (via The Sydney Morning Herald).

Why are blue spaces the best natural environments?

Both green and blue spaces have tremendous calming elements to them, but research is showing aquatic environments might triumph slightly over woodlands and parks. A 2013 study by Global Environmental Change examined happiness in different environments. To start, the study had 20,000 participants rate their happiness at random times. Researchers found that higher levels of joy were reported near coastal and marine environments than in urban settings.

Environmental Research conducted another study specifically studying the well-being effects of blue spaces. Researchers asked participants to either rest at a control site or walk for 20 minutes in an urban area or blue space (via The Sydney Morning Herald). The findings indicated that after 3 weeks, those who walked in blue spaces experienced the highest boost in mood and well-being.

Lastly, blue zones have a meditative quality, such as the crashing of the waves. Catherine Kelly, a wellness practitioner tells The Guardian, "You can immerse yourself in it, which you can't really do with a green space. You're present in that moment, you're looking at something with intention, and whether that's for two minutes or half an hour, it gives you the benefits in that moment."