Pause for a few moments and close your eyes, concentrating on the sound of gentle flowing water, or the trickling of a water fountain. If you don’t have a water source nearby, simply imagine the sound and how it makes you feel. The relaxing lull of flowing water, like a creek or stream, can help to focus and relax the mind. The gentle sounds can also keep your mind from wandering to stressful thoughts or worries.
Researchers in a 2011 study from the University of Sussex and the London School of Economics and Political Science report there is evidence that locales with water promote more happiness than any other natural setting. Compared to farms, mountains, or woodlands, marine based or coastal environments predicted that subjects would be about six points happier on a scale of 100 than in another urban environment.
The “Blue Mind Effect,” a term coined by marine biologist and researcher Wallace Nichols, describes the “calm, peacefulness, unity, and sense of general happiness and satisfaction with life in the moment” that people feel in an around water. While being immersed in water would have the most positive effects, it’s certainly true that general exposure has many positive effects as well. Imagine how you felt the last time you added a table top water fountain to your environment. Or the last time you visited a hotel with a lovely, tiered water fountain. You can bring this serenity to your home or work environment, and reap the positive, relaxing benefits.
Simply bringing water to mind may also be of help. In one study, cancer patients were shown a video that included the sounds of waterfalls, creeks, and ocean waves. These patients, who were in chronic pain, experienced a 20-30% reduction in the stress hormones cortisol and epinephrine. In another important study, young adults in a dental office were exposed to water fountain sounds and experienced significant reductions in stress and anxiety levels.
It is important to keep your connection to water, as it’s almost universal for so many of us that water creates an enhanced sense of well-being. Aside from the presence of large bodies of water, there are many things you can do to get the benefits at any time when you most need them: fill a tub and take a long, hot bath; get a CD or music app with ocean or relaxing water fountain sounds; spend quality time near smaller bodies of water like outdoor garden fountains and waterfalls.