Our physical and mental wellbeing is paramount to leading a happy and fulfilling life and now more than ever is time to take stock and start putting our health first and finding out how water and wellbeing are linked is the first step.
As human beings, we have long had an affinity and a fascination with water. Whether as a means to keep us hydrated, to encourage our crops to grow, or to take on the exploration of new lands, water has, and still does, play an incredibly important role in our lives, more than you might even know.
The legend of Atlantis centres around water and how the individuals who lived on the island had founds ways to harness the power of water for use in everyday life as well as to enhance their wellbeing both physically and mentally. Although there is still no concrete evidence of a world submerged under the sea, many people still like to dream of an era of scholars and teachers who thrived through the connection of water and wellbeing.
Water has been used by many Ancient civilisations as a way to cleanse themselves and as a part of their rituals and spiritual rites. The Ancient Egyptians used water as a way to purify themselves and it was a key component in the ceremonies undertaken by priestesses. During their initiations they would pass through a number of chambers, all with bathing areas and they would be anointed with different essential oils as they passed through each stage.
Iron Age Britons valued water and the spirits that were believed to be contained within it, to such a high degree, that they were prepared to give away their greatest treasures to the water. Archaeologists have found many examples of ornate jewellery and weapons in riverbeds throughout the country. The most beautiful example of this is the Battersea Shield which was found in the River Thames.
It is clear that the shield was never used in battle as it has not been damaged in any way. It is believed that it as created purely to bring good luck and fortune to its owner and the wider community. Although many ancient civilisations emotional connection to water may be deemed as superstition today, it is evidence of early links between water and wellbeing.
The Ancient Greeks and Ancient Romans built temples to the Gods and Goddesses that were linked to water. Neptune was the Roman god of water and his Greek counterpart Poseidon was married to Amphitrite the goddess of the sea. People would pray to these gods to keep them safe if they had to travel on water and would hold festivals to honour the gods. When raging seas ripped through the lands the communities believed that they had somehow angered the gods. The again, whilst might be viewed as superstition, gives another view on water and wellbeing.
To the romans, cleanliness was of high importance. They devoted entire buildings to the pursuit of of combining water and wellbeing. These bath houses were decorated with ornate mosaics, often depicting Neptune and the Goddess Sulis and were heated for maximum comfort. The spa’s they built one natural springs and watercourses also had areas for exercise, massage and bathing. It was not only a place for social gatherings, business meetings were conducted there aswell.
Another example that is still seen today is the use of water in a number of religious practices. In Christianity water is used to baptise individuals into the faith and in Islam water is used in the practice of Wudu where various areas of the body, such as face, hands, arm and feet are washed before prayer.
But what about the link between water and our mental health and overall wellbeing?
There are numerous ways that water can be used as a way to aid our overall physical and mental health. It is one of the main building blocks of human life and it is often something that we take for granted. Not only does water allow our bodies to function on a cellular level, but it gives us many opportunities to look at ways in which we can utilise the gifts that are present on our planet to enhance our daily lives. The links between water and wellbeing are just one area that we can explore to find ways to enhance our lives and to feel more connected to people and the world around us.
As we move into a period of time where using alternative energy sources has become paramount to our very survival, water will play a big part in the ways in which we can heat our homes. There are ways that we can combine the power of water with its relaxing qualities to bring about a change in our societies and in the connection that we currently have between water and wellbeing. Some of these will be quick changes that we can make to our diets and our daily lives and others will require the need for new technologies to be developed to harness the power of water.
Dehydration not only causes our physical bodies to feel out of balance and can be dangerous but lack of water can also have a profound effect on our mental health. This is particularly true for those individuals that struggle with any form of mental health issues, whether anxiety and depression or a mood disorder. Making sure you drink enough water can help you to think more clearly, which can be an issue when dealing with anxiety. It can also help to prevent body sensations and symptoms such as headaches that can occur with dehyration.
Although water itself isn’t going to clear your anxiety, it can help to prevent other forms of brain fogginess from occurring due to a lack of water and it can increase feelings of wellbeing. It is one simple indication of how water and wellbeing are linked and how one can affect the other in subtle ways.
When we are dehydrated it can have a number of effects on our physical bodies and our mental wellbeing. Water helps the human body to:
- Maintain an optimum body temperature
- Help us remove waste products from our bodies
- To protect our spinal cords
- To help lubricate our joints
- To help our brains and neurological systems to function correctly
There are many ways that you can use the link between water and wellbeing to help support your physical and mental health and staying hydrated is one of them. Here are some tips on keeping yourself hydrated throughout the day.
- Have a bottle of water on your desk
- Get a glass of water every time you make a hot drink
- Keep a track of the amount of water you drink each day
- If you don’t like the taste of plain water, try adding a slice of lemon, lime or frozen fruit to your drink
For those who are living with anxiety, a headache that is induced by dehydration can then lead to further feelings of panic. This helps to show that whilst we often tal about the positive links between water and wellbeing there are also negatives associated with a lack of water and our overall wellbeing and health. Currently across the world around 2.2 billion people do not have access to safe water for drinking.
Emotions, Water and Wellbeing
Many of us have fond memories of summer days by the beach, watching the waves gently lapping against the sand. Perhaps running away from the water as it edges ever closer to your toes. It is a calm and tranquil experience for many, whilst others enjoy the thrill-seeking that comes with riding the waves back to the shore. These memories are connected to our emotions and it is these feelings that come flooding back when we are near water or even if we hear the sound of waves gently lapping against the shores. This is where we can use water and the feelings it evokes in our meditation and wellbeing practices to link our emotions, water and wellbeing.
Meditation gives you the opportunity to slow down just for a few minutes. It is not about emptying the mind of all thoughts and feelings, instead it is about watching the ebb and flow of your thoughts and not giving them any energy and not rumenating on them. The ebb and flow of thoughts is often likened to the incoming and outgoing tides of the seas and oceans. Again this shows that there are lots of parallels drawn between water and wellbeing even if theses are simply noticing comparisons between the two.
The emotions that are evoked when hearing water as well as when you visualise yourself on a nice warm beach, help to identify the link between water and wellbeing and how you can use this to your advantage in times of stress and overwhelm. For some a relaxing bath at the end of a busy day can help them to unwind. This can also be coupled with bath salts and essential oils to enhance relaxation.
There are many apps and music albums that will allow you to listen to ambient music that will use water as one of its main focuses. This could be the sound of the waves gently lapping on the shore, or rain falling through the trees. It helps to create feelings of calm and peace and tranquillity that can be used when we are feeling overwhelmed by everyday events or navigating our way through a particularly stressful period in our lives. Using water and wellbeing in this way can have a positive impact in our lives and the way we manage challenges in our lives.
There has been lots of research that has now found that being near water can have a profound impact on your mental health and linking water and wellbeing together. For centuries we have been aware of the positive impact on our physical health, with the sea air being prescribed as a way to aid a patient’s recovery when suffering from tuberculosis. The sea air is packed full of negative ions which have been shown to help us absorb oxygen into our bodies and also contain magnesium which can be helpful for dry skin conditions.
During Victorian times doctors would actually prescribe the sea air as a way to help alleviate some symptoms that people were experiencing. These symptoms could be everything from lung conditions right through to both physical and mental exhaustion. Individuals who had symptoms, that we would liken to anxiety today, we often sent to seaside areas to see whether the seaside air would help to calm their thoughts. There is a lot of research currently being undertaken into ‘blue space’ and how water and wellbeing interact with one another.
It is hoped that over time this research will be able to identify ways in which we can help people with anxiety and depression and other mental health conditions by replicating the connection between water and wellbeing in artificial settings. This could be looking at providing visual stimuli of water as well as the audio tracks that are already available and combining these to help simulate the feelings that are associated with water.
Another water and wellbeing based activity that is increasing in popularity is the use of floatation tanks. These tanks are filled with water and epsom salt and are designed as a relaxation therapy. The rooms are often dimly lit and the tanks themselves have lids that can be brought down over the top of the tank to provide a low sensory experience for those people who are looking to reduce the stimulus around them.
The low levels of water, mixed with the epsom salts and heated to skin temperature allow those using it to experience the sensation of floating on the water. This weightless feeling can help with a number of symptoms as well as helping with overall wellbeing. Although the practice has only really taken off in recent years the scientific research to back up the benefits of floating have actually been around since the 1950s. We can recreate some of these sesnations in our baths at home in relation to the temperature of the water and the use of epsom salts to help relieve tension from our bodies. This allows us to use the connection between water and wellbeing to our advantage.
The links between water and wellbeing are continually being researched and a number of studies that are being conducted by the Laureate Institute and looking at mental wellbeing as well as the role that floation can play in relaxation therapy. They conduct studies using real world data that looks at the way anxiety presents itself and how certain relaxation therapies can help to lessen these symptoms.
Blue Mind Science
‘Blue Mind’ Science is taking this further and looking at all of the physical and mental health benefits that can be associated with being in or near to water. It is thought that being in contact with water, in whatever form this may take (including your own bath), produces a meditative state within us. As we know these meditative states not only make us feel calmer but can also make us feel, happier, healthier and more creative. Meditation can for some people be the path to an increase in their physical and mental wellbeing.
Gudied meditations in particular can be useful for people who find that their mind often wanders during meditation. There are guided meditations that have ambient sounds in the background and these often include sounds from nature and water in particular. Using sounds in this way can allow you to link water and wellbeing in a way that is beneficial and easy to take part in.
It is no surprise that 70% of the Earth’s surface is made up of water, 70% of our bodies are also made up of water, and 70% of our heart and brains is made up of water. The worlds oceans also supply around 50% of the oxygen that is found in our atmosphere. This deep biological connection with this wonderful natural substance triggers a positive response in our brains and bodies and is often one that we are not aware of.
Our bodies receive neurochemicals that are linked to promoting wellness, increased relaxation and an increase in blood flow to the heart and the brain. You can watch a lecture from Wallace J Nichols, the man behind the ‘Blue Mind’ research here where he explains more behind how we could use our connection to water to help benefit our lives. He discusses how even having pictures of rivers and oceans on our walls can help to stimulate feelings of relaxation and show the power of water and wellbeing.
Water and wellbeing are expressed by Blue Mind Science as intrinsically linked and that water can hold strong possibilities for us both in terms of how we use it to survive on a basic level, how it can help us harness power and energy and then how it can enhance our lives and our wellbeing.
There are many more ways that you can harness the connections of water and wellbeing and it is important that each person finds the activities that will help them in their own, individual circumstances. There is no one size fits all solution, but some of the areas we have discussed will help get you started.