Book Review of the Month – February, 2021
Have you ever wondered why being near the water is so appealing? For centuries, humans have had moments of clarity besides, or inside, bodies of water including pools, ponds, lakes, rivers and oceans. To this day, we wade in them, vacation by them and pay top dollar to live by them. But what exactly is causing us to feel so instinctively drawn to the water’s edge? Author Wallace J. Nichols has a phrase for the almost meditative state that comes to us while gazing at or submerged in the water. He calls this peaceful and positive feeling the Blue Mind.
Watery Benefits for Our Brains
Nichols’ National Bestseller, “Blue Mind”, is a digestible and thought-provoking breakdown of the neuroscience that makes water a universally used and understood medium from which human beings derive joy. Through activities that range in diversity from painting water landscapes to recreating in the water through sports like swimming, diving, surfing and paddle boarding, water is as integral a part of us as it is the planet. This is true not just metaphorically but also physically as water makes up 70% of our planet, 70% of our bodies and 70% of our brains.
Within recent years, our knowledge of the brain has grown tremendously. Advances in science and technology have given us the means to analyze and evaluate how certain perceptions or stimuli affect our state of being. Nichols draws from this pool of research to break down how and why the brain – from cognition to neuroplasticity – shows signs of benefitting so immensely from water. Furthermore, it has been documented both scientifically and anecdotally that the presence of water adds to our quality of life, making us happier and more creative. It is no wonder that “flow” and “fluid,” watery terms no doubt, are also words used to describe creative mental states, expressiveness and dynamic ways of thinking.
The Deep, and Sometimes Dark, Depths of Water
And yet, water is not without consequence. Communities around the world have been impacted by floods and tsunamis, while drowning is the third leading cause of unintentional injury- death, worldwide. Climate change makes the unpredictability of our waterways even more disconcerting through problems like sea-level rise. However, time and time again, adversely affected communities have rebuilt themselves, stayed strong to their watery roots and embraced the deeply ingrained culture that comes with the water lifestyle. If we are to continue benefitting from water, we must also do what we can to preserve it.
Throughout the book, Nichols highlights and evaluates the neurological effects of water that have been harnessed for many – veterans suffering from PTSD, surfers addicted to the rush of catching a wave, divers who find solace from being underwater, swimmers tapping into the rhythmic beauty of water, professional fisherman and seafarers who live on the sea, and others. Many of these groups willingly and knowingly handle the dangers that water can bring in exchange for the many benefits it can provide them.
I Wish You Water
Filled with profound water-related quotes by many of the world’s most expert masters of their crafts, “Blue Mind” is not only a fascinating study of our many connections to water – emotionally, behaviorally, physically, and otherwise, but it is also an inspiring call for us to collectively respect the planet’s many bodies of water and unify around preserving and protecting them.
The book wraps up with an eloquent yet powerful quote by Nichols that urges us to all to embrace the water that connects us and makes us human. It is a call to action to remember our roots, live in the present and protect the planet we call home. “Fall more deeply in love with the water in all its shapes, colors, and forms. Let it heal you and make you a better, stronger version of yourself. You need water. And water needs you now.
I wish you water.” We are wise to take his advice.
“Blue Mind” can be found on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and at a variety of other bookstores. Those wishing to learn more about Blue Mind before opening it’s pages can listed to the TEDxSan Diego Talk given by Wallace J. Nichols titled Exploring Our Blue Mind.