What is blue mind and how does it work?

Posted by Liz Earle Beauty Co. November 22, 2018 | 4 min read

Here at Liz Earle we’re never far from the water. Beyond the shores of our idyllic coastal home, even those in our London office are a stone’s throw from the calming waters of the Regent’s canal as it ebbs quite unexpectedly through N1.

So when we started to hear more and more about ‘blue mind’ theory − that being close to, in, on or under water could have a positive mental effect on wellbeing – well, it resonated. We only need to hear the sound of the waves down at Appley beach for our shoulders to drop and feel instantly more calm. It’s one of the main perks of living on an island. 

Coined by the Californian marine biologist Wallace J. Nichols in his book of the same name, the term blue mind refers to the concept that “proximity to water can improve performance, increase calm, diminish anxiety, and increase professional success.” Just imagine − being at the beach actually makes you better at your job.

In his own words, blue mind is "a mildly meditative state characterised by calm, peacefulness, unity, and a sense of general happiness and satisfaction with life in the moment" – and as humans it’s something we can experience any time we are close to the water.

As babies we are born with around 80% of our bodies comprised of water (as we age that amount naturally diminishes). Ocean plants supply 50% of the oxygen in the atmosphere and, according to Nichols, “even our brains sit naturally in saline, craving a connection to the planet’s ocean on a deeply primal level tied to our evolution.”

Put like that, the blue mind theory seems to make sense. Which is all very well if you’re lucky enough to live 5 minutes from the beach (sorry). However, with some lateral thinking, even land-locked city dwellers can benefit. Below, we’ve come up with 5 simple ways to get your blue mind on, even when the beach feels a million miles away.

Listen to the waves

Of course, there is no substitute for actually standing on the shore as waves lap at your feet, but even the sound of the sea can have therapeutic benefits. According to Nicholls, being by the sea affords the brain vital downtime from its constantly over-stimulated state. “The sound around us, from an auditory perspective, is simplified. It's not quiet, but the sound of water is far more simple than the sound of voices or the sound of music or the sound of a city" − so grab your headphones and search out one of the many seascape playlists on Spotify.

Submerge yourself

When wild swimming is not an option (or sea temperatures plummet) there are other ways to get your watery kicks. Floatation tanks are enjoying a renaissance in wellbeing circles and it’s not hard to see why. Suspended in a dimly lit, futuristic tank filled with warm, mineral-rich water, the body and brain get a well-earned chance to rest and reset. Of course, it’s not free, but enjoying a deep bath with Epsom salts at home, preferably by candlelight, can evoke a similarly meditative effect.

Fruits of the sea

While being in or near the water promotes an innate sense of wellbeing, for our formulators, the sea remains a constant source of inspiration. Not least for its bounty of mineral-rich ingredients like seaweed − used for centuries to promote skin health. Harvested off the coast of Brittany, France, this particular sea algae is rich in essential fatty acids, omegas 3 and 6 and sterols to help moisturise, revitalise and plump up skin.

Try forest bathing

If you’re really nowhere near water, but surrounded by trees, there’s another kind of immersion therapy you could try. Forest bathing, or Shinrin-yoku, was developed in Japan in the 1980s and much like the blue mind theory, encourages us to spend time in nature (in this case amongst trees) in order to slow the mind and help reduce stress. This is turn can have a positive effect on energy levels and sleep. Find out more and read some of the research here.