Expert: Being on the water is beneficial for both your mental and physical health


Good news, boating fans! Research has proven that being on the water is not only good for your physical health, but mental health as well.

Marine biologist Dr. Wallace J. Nichols has spent years researching these benefits -- and it's a state of mind he outlines in his book, Blue Mind.

"It kind of connects the dots on why we feel so good when you're in, on, or under water," explained Dr. Nichols to AOL Lifestyle. "But the best place to start to explain that is to start with how you're feeling before you go into the water."

That state is what's described by Nichols and other experts as "red mind."

"Red mind is overworked, distracted, maybe underslept, sometimes mildly anxious and stressful. It's sort of the new normal of modern life," he explained, while relaying the impact that technology has on both physical and mental wellbeing.

But being on the water can take away that stress. Aside from the obvious benefits of vitamin D and being active, spending time on the water can also do wonderful things for your mind.

"Blue mind is when you step away and change your view -- your visual and auditory environment," asserted Nichols. "We've learned that cortisol (stress hormones) decreases, your breathing rate slows down, your heart rate slows down, your brain moves into a different mode scientists like to call the 'default mode.'"

This new mode is good for "bigger picture thinking" and "creativity."

"You are giving up a lot of the bandwidth that your brain uses for visual and auditory processing. You're giving up a lot of the semantic processing," Nichols said.

While getting out on the water may be optimal for mental health, it's not easy to just get on a boat and just go. And while changing up your visual cues -- like hanging a picture of a boat or a sound machine that mimics the sound of waves -- in the office to help decrease stress, there are plenty of programs such as Discover Boating that can get you on the water.

"A nice day on the water is a pretty dose of Blue Mind," Nichols concluded. He even thinks that in the future, doctors may start prescribing "a day on the boat" for patients. Consider us sold.

Related: Top summer destinations we're loving!

Originally published