We’ve all become super health conscious in these unsettling days. So it was reassuring to come across some recent scientific studies that highlighted the health benefits of going out on a boat.
Some of the benefits that accrue from boating are evident: getting out in the sunshine helps our bodies produce Vitamin D which helps promote stronger bones and positive mental thinking. (Of course, always in moderation and with plenty of applications of a strong sun-block to prevent harmful burning).
Boating is also a good stress-reducer. Getting away, even for an hour or two, from the noise and demands and the constant connections of modern life is a good thing for our mental health.
And there’s even some evidence that our primordial attraction to the color blue, something shared by most humans, triggers calming influences in our brains and may even help inspire creativity. Which may be one reason that a day spent on the deep blue sea, underneath a gorgeous blue sky, results in coming home happier than when you left.
Dr. Wallace J. Nichols is the author of Blue Mind, a bestselling book on the relationship between water and happiness, and has done scientific research into how boating can positively affect health.
“The effect of boating on our lives, and its fundamental connection to our planet’s waters, are well documented from an economic, ecological and educational perspective,” said Nichols. “But, the relationship of a boat to our health has been largely overlooked. We now know, thanks to science, that the mere sight and sound of water promotes wellness by lowering cortisol, increasing serotonin and inducing relaxation. It only makes sense that being on a boat is one of the best ways to access the wellness benefits of the water.”
Boating triggers a restful state. It provides the means to get outside of daily routines, allowing our brains to reset, think beyond our current circumstances, and connect to something bigger than ourselves. Being on the water on a boat promotes physiological and psychological changes spanning health and wellness, awe and wonder, creativity and play, and happiness and relaxation.
Dr. Nichols’ “blue mind” separates us from the pressures and distractions of modern-day life, which he refers to as the “red mind.” Having a blue mind lessens the stresses of the day and gives us a break from our overstimulated lives. Nichols says that the relationship of a boat to our emotional health has been largely overlooked, until recently.
“Neuroscientists can now pinpoint in your brain where your emotions manifest — it’s called the amygdala,” Dr. Nichols said recently. “They’ve found that even just looking at water can trigger feelings of wellness, compassion, empathy, and happiness. We experience slower breathing, reduced heart rate, and lowered skin temperature.
“Blue mind takes us from our prefrontal cortex, responsible for things like planning and decision-making, to our default mode network, when we’re thinking about others or ourselves and not specific tasks. Studies from University of Exeter Medical School in the United Kingdom show that being on or near the water, or even just hearing the sounds of water, adds wellness and emotional benefits. People say they feel better and their measurable vital signs agree — breathing, blood pressure, heart rate, and so on.”
And the doctor also cites studies that show boating with friends, family and others we love helps create what he calls a “neural network,” in which the shared experience of the blue mind is connected and magnified with others.
And here we thought a great day out on the water on our boat was fun, enjoyable, exciting (sometimes!) and relaxing.
Nope. As it turns out, boating does a body good!