As children, my sister and I always noticed our mom getting a contented, faraway look as she gazed at the ocean on vacation. We called it “the Enya Effect,” named for the dreamy music of the Irish singer she loved.
But the marine biologist Wallace J. Nichols would call what we’d noticed “Blue Mind,” a phenomenon where being close to water inspires positive emotional states including calm, relaxation, creative thought and more restful sleep.
In his 2015 book by that same name, Nichols presents the science behind Blue Mind, citing studies such as this one, which linked natural or constructed water features with mood improvement and a sense of inner restoration.
Brain chemistry changes around water as well. According to Nichols, water can impact neurotransmitters known to impact mood in a similar way to how they change during meditation. “The best way to handle stress,” he told Psychology Today, “may be to get to the closest beach.”
A river, lake, stream or pond will have the same effect. And if you can’t get away, a soak in the tub can tap into water’s calming properties—or a white noise machine featuring waves, rain or babbling brook. Even an internet search for aquatic photography can steer your mind toward peace and contentment.
And if you really want to enhance your aquatic joy, put on some Enya—I especially recommend “Caribbean Blue.”