I came across this book while reading a recent issue of Psychology Today. By the way, Psychology Today is a great magazine. You might not agree with everything going on in modern psychology, but there is usually a gem in every issue–even a tiny one. Like this book recommendation.
The Washington Post reviewed it recently, and the last time I checked it was #12 on the New York Times list of best selling science books. Not too shabby. So, what did the Post have to say about Nichols’ book?
““Blue Mind” is a fascinating study of the emotional, behavioral, psychological and physical connections that keep humans so enchanted with water. Nichols examines seas and oceans, lakes and rivers, even swimming pools and the contents of our bathtubs in a study that is both highly readable and rooted in real research. He is a marine biologist whose passion for our planet’s water goes far beyond the classroom. He urges us to get closer to water, not only for our own sake but for the environment and a healthier future for us all. The blue mind of the book’s title refers to the neurological, psychological and emotional changes our brains experience when we are close to water. Nichols draws on science and art, hard data and anecdote, and plenty of experience, to explain our blue mind in detail. Not just what it is, but how we can enter into this state and — perhaps most important — why we should do so…The benefits of nurturing our blue mind go beyond just feeling good. Our blue mind is up against two other common states, as Nichols explains: red mind (stressed, anxious, overactive yet underproductive) and gray mind (numb, lethargic, demotivated and unsatisfied). Red and gray mind states are products of our modern lifestyles, habits and choices. Blue mind is a natural state that we all instinctively know but that many of us have forgotten…Ultimately, Nichols suggests that being close to water can make us not only happier, calmer and more emotionally healthy, but also more successful in life, relationships and even business. By tapping into an evolutionary urge that lies dormant in us all, we can access a powerful mental capacity for greatness. It’s something we all have the ability to do. This book shows us how to recognize it, stop ignoring it and tune in to it.” (Nicola Joyce, Washington Post)
Well, that’s interesting. I grew up near water. I have always lived near water. I have always said that I could not live in a place where there was no water, and I never have. I was even a competitive swimmer. I can relate to the points raised in this book. But, I wanted to make this premise more accessible. I live in lake country, and living on and around lakes defines the culture of my state. Many people live with lakes in their backyards. We are not those people. We live in an urban environment. How could I bring the water here? Macro to micro as it were?
I decided to pick a place of high conflict in our house and add a source of water–the dining room table. Everyone gathers at the dining room table to do homework, crafts, and eat. It’s the place to be, and it’s the place to be contrary and persnickety in our house apparently. Oh the arguments that have started in this space. Rather than continue to henpeck everyone for arguing, I wondered if I could discourage cantankerous moods by adding more peace? Something like ‘Be the change that you want to see’? Make the space more beautiful. More lovely. And, of course, add a source of water and find out if Nichols’ notion was worth anything in a home environment. The spas, hotels, and high end restaurants certainly take advantage of the idea of the blue mind. Could I?
i added a rock fountain to a rather inconspicuous corner. It’s not a loud fountain. One has to be quiet to hear it, but that might be the point. So, what happened?
Doireann sauntered in as she does and commented, “I like that. It’s very Zen.” She started spending more time at the dining room table. Eadaoin is very high affect so she squealed with delight. “Ooooh! A fountain! Pretty!” She sat directly next to it when she ate. Grace commented as well. “I like this very much. It’s peaceful. ” Milly wasn’t sure about it because it was different. What I did notice was that when someone started to argue, another girl said, “Hey, we should stop. Mom went to all this trouble to make it peaceful in here. We should respect the peace.”
Did you catch that? “We should respect the peace.” I didn’t tell them to do that. Somehow adding a new element–a source of water–into the room changed the environment enough that the girls responded in such a way that they wanted to maintain the atmospheric change. They wanted to behave in a way that would promote peace–at least in that space. They also enjoyed the effect that the changed atmosphere had on them. That’s significant.
It’s not easy to get kids to take ownership of their own home environments, but when it happens it’s a big deal. In any case, I recommend Nichols’ book to you as well as perhaps introducing a small source of water into your own home. It’s not a big investment, but it might produce huge dividends.