From seas to rivers, canals and even fountains, a blue space is defined as any place where you are close to an area of water.
We tend to hear a lot about green spaces and how they can benefit our well-being – but what about blue spaces? There’s growing evidence and ongoing research discovering the lesser-known but powerful benefits of what’s known as blue therapy. For example, one recent study concluded that people who had grown up having spent time around blue spaces reposted better mental health as adults. In fact, being around blue spaces may be even more beneficial than green spaces.
So, let’s take a dip into what makes blue spaces so good for our well-being.
- Water quietens your mind
If you’ve ever felt soothed by the gentle crashing of waves or the trickle of a stream, it could be because the sound of water is an example of what’s known as pink noise. You’ve probably heard of white noise before, and pink noise can have a similar effect.
The main difference is that pink noise has a lower pitch than white noise, so it’s less of a static sound and more of a steady background hum. It’s sometimes known as ‘ambient noise’, which can include a lot of natural sounds such as water. The lower frequencies filter out higher-pitched sounds, and as such, pink noise is said to have a much more relaxing effect. Just imagine the low rumbles of waves crashing against the shore.
The repetitive dips and swirls of flowing water can also be quite meditative to watch, whether you’re at the beach, taking a break next to a gently moving river, or sitting by the edge of a fountain.
- It lifts your mood
In part because of the soothing effect of water, being in a blue space can help to lift your mood and reduce feelings of stress and anxiety. Physically being in the water can have an even greater benefit than observing it alone. It can cause our bodies to go into a more relaxed state where our heart rate slows down, and our blood pressure lowers.
The colour blue itself is also known for being a colour that helps you to unwind and feel calm. So even if you only get a chance to sit and watch the water, you can still experience the peace and stillness that it brings. Being battered by wind and rain, however, is not quite as relaxing, and seas can be especially rough during the winter months. If you’re planning on venturing to the coastline, remember to wrap up and carry a windproof umbrella to keep you sheltered from any gales.
- Water can encourage exercise
Standing in front of a body of water, it can be pretty tempting to dip your toes in. It’s true that water facilitates lots of different kinds of exercise and activities, which can have a huge positive impact on your well-being. Exercise encourages the release of feel-good hormones, which elevates your mood – not to mention the benefit it has on your physical health, which can reduce your risk of developing certain health conditions.
Swimming, sailing, paddleboarding – or even surfing and diving if you’re feeling more adventurous – can give you all the benefits of exercising while you’re also soaking up the calming, rejuvenating effect of water.
- Builds your connection to the environment
Spending quality time around natural sources of water can also help to build your connection to the natural environment. Quality time is not just about being near water, it’s about appreciating the blue space and paying attention to the sights and sounds.
Deepening this connection has been shown to have a positive impact on your well-being, as well as building your respect for the natural world. All the benefits mentioned so far in this article can depend on the quality of the blue space. A murky canal or a beach covered in litter probably won’t have the same calming effect as crystal clear waters and sandy beaches.
You’ll find many local initiatives to get involved with that aim to revive some of the UK’s blue spaces. They’re not only great for supporting blue spaces but also give you a chance to meet new people.
We’re lucky to live on an island such as the UK, where we’re literally surrounded by vastly different blue spaces. From the tranquil lochs in Scotland and the rugged coasts of Northern Ireland to the surfing paradise that is Cornwall’s beaches. Even in land-locked towns and cities, you’ll probably be able to find an urban blue space – whether that’s a canal, fountain, or swimming pool.
You’re never too far away from the relaxing power of blue spaces. So, once in a while, remember to take some time away from your usual hectic lifestyle to find peace and calm and let the water work its magic on you.