By Chloe Russell & Wanda Bodnar
Blue Mind. An ever increasing term used by more and more people. But what does it mean to have a ‘Blue Mind’? Can anyone achieve it? And better yet, how? Here at Thames Estuary Partnership, we are huge advocates of Blue Mind and we even had the privilege to chat with the author and founder of the Blue Mind Movement on our Talk of The Thames Podcast. So why not spend a few minutes with us today and unlock the power of your own Blue Mind.
Press play to listen to the podcast episode
Let’s start from the beginning. We have Dr Wallace J. Nichols to thank for creating the phrase, which summarises his lifelong study and passion of researching into why being near, in, on, or underwater can make us happier, healthier, more connected and better at what we do. Have you ever thought about taking that "one magic pill" to give you superpowers? Well, look no further. It’s water. Following is an extract from Wallace’s book "Blue Mind":
Why are we drawn to the ocean each summer? Why does being near water set our minds and bodies at ease? Grounded in cutting-edge studies in neurobiology, cognitive psychology, economics, and medicine, and made real by stories of innovative scientists, doctors, athletes, artists, environmentalists, businesspeople and lovers of nature - stories that fascinate the mind and touch the heart - Blue Mind will awaken readers to the vital importance of water to the health and happiness of us all.
The Tidal Thames at the Tate Modern
Whether it's walking along the Thames Path, or sitting by a fountain, or swimming in the ocean, water makes us calmer. It makes us happier. It enhances our relationships. Research has shown that being near, in, on or under water can lower stress, increase our sense of well-being and boost creativity. And when it comes to water, it is inevitable that the colour blue will also come to mind.
Humans have evolved surrounded by blue. Just think of water again, which covers 70% of the planet, and the sky. These all appear blue because the human eyes contain cells capable of detecting electromagnetic radiation with wavelengths between around 380-700 nanometres (visible light).
The visible light spectrum
Pure water is of course clear. However, if it is deep enough the light cannot reflect off the sea (or riverbed) and it appears blue. Water molecules are better at absorbing light that arrives in longer wavelengths such as reds, oranges, yellows and greens. This leaves blue, which has a shorter wavelength to penetrate deeper, which in turns makes water look blue. The same is true to the colour of the sky. As the light reaches the atmosphere it is scattered by the tiny molecules of gas in the air (referred to as Rayleigh scattering). Shorter wavelengths are scattered the most, so more of the blue light is scattered towards our eyes, hence the sky appears blue to us.
Absorption of light by water and its scattering in the atmosphere
So no wonder why water has a positive affect on our body and mind. Water, and inherently the colour blue, have been part of our evolution. We have been surrounded by it. And it’s about time we all tap into this magic pill!
Today is the first ever World Blue Mind Day and what a time to come together and celebrate the importance of water. We have just experienced a record breaking heat wave here in the UK and we all embraced the cooling effect of water either with a cold shower or with a dip in our DIY paddling pools to keep our brain’s functioning. Naturally we are drawn to water sources to keep our minds at bay. But there’s more!
Within our chat with Wallace he told us about ‘Virtual Blue Mind’, the theory that simply thinking about blue spaces - be it oceans, lakes, or of course our beloved Tidal Thames - can also achieve our own Blue Mind. Think back to some of your favourite memories in all those special places by the water. Draw upon all the feelings you had in that moment; all your senses tingling when you first saw the water, the smell of the atmosphere as you approached it, the sounds of intangible tranquillity. These memories of yours can unlock your own superpower to achieve Blue Mind, anywhere and at any time.
So this got us thinking. We all have these special moments, these special places that we keep in our hearts. So what is yours? We are dedicating and celebrating Blue Mind Day 2022 with you all, by creating a shared space to express our favourite spots along the Tidal Thames. Enter "The Thames Tranquillity Map" our brand new, shiny virtual map that will plot each and everyone of your treasured Blue Mind memories. So why not get involved and help paint the picture? We are very lucky to have the Thames on our doorstep, and we invite you to fill out the survey and submit your favourite spot here.
Preview of the Thames Tranquillity Map
And whilst we still have you for these last moments, we would like to share some other exciting news. Here at Thames Estuary Partnership we are producing the next podcast episode based on ‘London from the Paddleboarder's Perspective’ filled with sound recordings and stories along the West side of the Tidal Thames, from Kew heading towards Richmond. Imagine the sounds of the paddle swaying through the smooth water, the geese and swans hanging at the foreshore, the wind passing through the oak and willow trees. Running alongside these immersive nature soundscapes we will have natural history highlights of this stretch of the river, and personal stories of why paddleboarding and Blue Mind resonates with the busy life of our local Londoner.
The Tidal Thames at Syon Park
Don't forget to take someone you love to your favourite watery spot today, and share the story using the #bluemind hashtag.
We wish you water.