Blue Spaces

I’m very lucky to live just a short walk from my local beach which is where you will find me most evenings unwinding from my working day.  Little did I know that I was benefiting from ‘Blue Space’ therapy.  I was quite familiar with the mental health benefits of ‘Green Space’ and some of you may remember my blog on Forest Bathing, but I’d never thought about my daily beach walks in this context before.

‘Blue Space’ doesn’t just refer to the beach.  It can be any place where there is water, for example a stream, lake, reservoir, canal, or the humble garden pond!  Research is gathering to suggest that simply being around these ‘blue spaces’ can help to reduce the symptoms of depression and anxiety.

This isn’t a modern discovery by any stretch of the imagination.  People have been traveling to seaside resorts and spas to ‘take the waters’ for hundreds of years.  It’s also a global phenomena with lots of different cultures recognising the spiritual and physical benefits of ‘blue spaces’.

One of the benefits of being in ‘blue spaces’ is that we tend to quite physically active in these areas.  Whether it’s walking the dog, playing a game with the children or surfing a few waves there’s always something to do in ‘blue spaces’.  These activities tend to give us a rare opportunity as adults to get in touch with our playful side and can provide a welcome distraction from any negative thinking patterns we may find ourselves habitually trapped in.  It’s well known that physical exercise can help us to manage the symptoms of depression and anxiety.

There’s also the social side of life which ‘blue spaces’ encourage.  People often gather together in these areas to take part in sports together, share a picnic and catch up with friends.  They also offer the opportunity to meet new people through organised events such as wild swimming.  Rachel Ashe formed ‘Mental Health Swims’ in 2019, an organisation which celebrates the healing power of cold water and community.  Check out their website below for volunteer led events near you.

Being in ‘blue spaces’ can be a multi-sensory experience, allowing us the opportunity for mindful moments just as is recommended in Forest Bathing.  Focusing our attention on the natural environment around us has been shown to reduce the symptoms of depression and anxiety.  Start by noticing what you can see around you, the different colours and shades, how light plays upon the water, what’s close by and what is in the distance.  Next, shift your attention to what you can hear, the sound of the water moving, birds, animals, perhaps other people.  Take the deepest breath you’ve taken all day and notice what you can smell.  Can you taste anything? Finally, focus on your sense of touch, if it’s safe to do so then touch the water, notice how warm or cool it feels, perhaps feel the sand beneath your feet and between your toes.

Now that the Summer is here it’s the perfect time to take advantage of ‘blue spaces’ near you.  Visiting a lake, river or beach etc. is the best way to access the benefits of ‘blue spaces’ but if this isn’t possible there are other options.  There are lots of free resources available online where you can access the sound of water or guided meditations with a ‘blue space’ theme.  Perhaps you could bring the water to you by building a pond in your garden.  Another option is to watch a nature documentary, a great way to immerse yourself in water without getting your toes wet!

Things to Explore

Book: Blue Spaces: How & Why Water Can Make You Feel Better by Dr. Catherine Kelly

Podcast: All in the Mind BBC 30th June 2020

Website: Mental Health Swims

Website: Blue Health