IIt was after her mother’s death that Catherine Kelly learned the healing power of water. Following instincts she did not yet understand, she moved to live alone by the sea in County Mayo, on the west coast of Ireland, and over the next several years began to recover. “It is an ebb and flow that the water gives us that allows us to connect with ourselves. It’s a permit, ”she says.
After eight years studying the therapeutic effects of nature, he has written a book called Blue Spaces, packed with ideas on how to make the most of being in or near water. You don’t have to live near the coast to benefit. “There is being in it, being next to it, thinking about it,” she says. Nor does the amount of water available matter. From raindrops to the ocean, from urban fountains to canals and rushing rivers, there is a blue space for everyone. And while the phrase “blue space” generally refers to natural waters, Kelly says the chances of a meaningful connection are the same, whether it’s at sea or in the shower.
“Being in the water takes you right into your body,” he says. “I think that is the crux of the benefit of water for well-being: it gets you out of your head. You can’t ignore your body when the water hits you. “
Here are some tips to help you make the most of your blue space, wherever you are.
Listen to a source
The movement and sound of the water attract people, Kelly says. Fountains are a great example of how water can stimulate a meditative encounter without requiring a person to make a formal or self-conscious effort to be attentive. Kelly likes to sit by a fountain and notice, then filter all other sounds. “Focus on the water … That helps us feel calmer inside,” she says. It does not matter if it is a fountain in a public square or in the privacy of your own garden pond. With practice, the ability to filter sounds can be transferred to busy homes and home offices.
Hit the cold tap
Follow the Wim Hof method and get used to a blast of pure cold at the end of the shower. Start with 10 seconds and build up to one minute of exposure. If the whole body experience is more than you can handle, Kelly says even splashing your face with cold water has benefits: The cold stimulates the vagus nerve and triggers an “anti-inflammatory response that helps with anxiety and depression. It improves circulation and releases endorphins. “
Go to the coast
Kelly’s favorite waterscape is the sea. “I jump in every chance I get,” he says. Different types of sea are effective for different moods: during confinement, with work and school colliding at home, I longed for a rough sea. “It took my frustrations out, took them out, threw me out and made me laugh,” he says. On calmer days, he likes to swim in the sunny stream, where the sun lights up a path in a calm sea. The key is to navigate your emotional geography.
Eye the horizon
You can also sit on a tile or have ice cream while walking through a prom. There is nothing like a horizon to give a sense of freedom and perspective. “Seeing ourselves in a coastal space allows us to let things go in a way that other spaces don’t,” says Kelly. “Here I am, this little thing. So maybe my problems aren’t that big after all. “
Join a wild swimming community
Even if you have a lake, river, or swimming pool within easy reach, taking the first step can be difficult. Kellym, who now lives in Brighton, is a member of a group called salty seabirds; the outdoor swimming society lists groups across the country. As Kelly says: “Access to water is more than just the water being there.” Social barriers may seem prohibitive, but wild communities on social media or local networking sites can offer an easier and friendlier point of entry.
Find the right water for you
While some people love to swim in the sea, others feel unwelcome because of its vastness and variable currents and conditions. “Some people like the contained space of a lake,” says Kelly. He enjoys the wild nature of unpredictable spaces and has enjoyed swimming at Glenariff Falls in the glens of County Antrim while visiting family in Northern Ireland. Others “find peace in the water surrounded by greenery,” while some love to walk (or kayak in) a canal.
Take a bath
What makes a bath a great escape for those who live miles from bathing water is the opportunity to “design the water the way you want it,” says Kelly. For her, that means bath oils, a candle, rainforest music, and about an hour of free time. He suggests going in slowly to appreciate how the water feels on your skin. “For people who are comfortable, a quick dunk is a great throw. I recommend holding your breath and diving in, ”she says. Repeat once or twice and feel the stress wash away.
Use your imagination
It is possible to find the blue space in your imagination. As Kelly says, we can reflect the effects of water if we think about it. When my little one can’t fall asleep, I walk him through our favorite valley in Cornwall, alongside a stream that leads to a rocky cove. When the story of the trip ends, with the spray in our noses and the taste of salt on our tongues, at least one of us has fallen asleep.
Made-up places work just as well. Kelly likes to invite people to imagine walking on the beach. The soft sand slides between your toes and becomes sticky near the sea. The waves wash the feet. In the distance, a hammock carefully hung between two trees, symbolizes the past and the future. Get in the hammock and settle into the present. “What it does is activate the parasympathetic nervous system,” says Kelly. “Lower your heart rate. When you’re meditating, your stress responses can’t work. “
Pick up a pebble
Any pebble. It doesn’t have to be from a beach. Find one in the park or in your yard, if you have one. Since I’m obsessed with pebbles, I have a pot of favorites on my desk. Study the stone. Run your fingers and thumbs over it. Examine their blemishes. Kelly says she loves “the metaphor of pebbles … On a beach, you can pick up a pebble and know that you are connected to the whole lot. Together they form an entity: a stone can hold a little water, but a whole beach can work much better. “
Don’t judge the rain
If the weather is humid, try not to complain; Take a moment to appreciate the opportunity to see the water cycle in action. Going for a walk in the rain can be exhilarating. Kelly’s idea of donning a bathing suit and standing in the garden in a downpour is an exaggeration to me, but I’ve happily raced through a hilltop town in a storm when the steep streets looked like waterfalls . If you hate getting wet, sit inside and enjoy the sound of falling while staying dry, or pick up a couple of raindrops and watch them run to the bottom of the window. “Blue space thinking allows us to rethink ourselves,” says Kelly. “Instead of thinking, ‘Oh no, it’s raining,’ think, ‘Well, there’s water.’ I’m a big fan of not judging, which allows us to be aware of things and not react to them. “
Embrace the aqueous culture
Watching David Attenborough’s Blue Planet or other ocean documentaries, such as My Octopus Teacher, can connect you to blue space by offering you the opportunity to experience it indirectly. Read books about other people’s water travel (such as Ruth Fitzmaurice’s I Found My Tribe, Raynor Wing’s The Salt Path, or How to Read Water by Tristan gooley), listen to the sounds of the ocean through a speaker in your living room or why not? – Trying on a watercolor paint stain can take you to the realm of blue space.
To return something
If you reach a body of water, be it a canal, a lake, or the beach, take a garbage collector with you. As Kelly says: “It’s my place. It’s my water. I want to take care of it. “
Blue spaces: how and why water can make you feel better by Catherine Kelly is published on April 29 (Welbeck Publishing Group, £ 14.99). To order a copy, to go guardianbookshop.com. Shipping charges may apply.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism