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  • Writer's pictureSteven Hansen

Enjoy the Serenity of ‘Blue Spaces’

Updated: Jun 16, 2021

Having access to nature – forests, parks, and even backyard gardens -- has long been touted to improve the mental and physical wellbeing of individuals and entire neighborhoods. Greenspaces are not only oases of beauty, but they also muffle city sounds, attract birds and butterflies. Natural and man-made greenspaces with mature trees provide cooling shade in summer.

Less known until recently are the benefits of “blue spaces” or places nearby rivers, ponds, lakes, canals and other water features. If you’ve ever had the opportunity to vacation at a cottage by the seashore or a mountain cabin near a bubbling brook, you probably remember how well you slept each night and how refreshed you felt every morning. Scientific studies are proving that living near water or having occasional access to blue spaces is amazingly beneficial to the body and mind.

Dr. Mathew White is an environmental psychologist with BlueHealth, a consortium of European researchers who studied the impacts that urban waterways can have on health. White says spending time in and around aquatic environments has consistently been shown to lead to significantly higher benefits, in inducing positive mood and reducing negative mood and stress, than green space does.

First, there are the beneficial environmental factors typical of aquatic environments, such as less polluted air and more sunlight. Second, people who live by water tend to be more physically active – not just with water sports but walking and cycling. Third, water has a psychologically restorative effect.

If you’re not fortunate to live near any “blue spaces,” you can still enjoy some of the benefits by creating your own water feature – something as simple as a birdbath can improve the vibe of your backyard or deck. A tabletop water fountain can add a serene feeling to any indoor space. Or take a virtual vacation to the ocean anytime!


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