by Tim Fleming of The River Cruise Line
For thousands of years, people all over the world have recognised the special status that water has in our lives — not only as an essential resource for us to live, but also for its spiritual and health-boosting powers. Even as science developed and much of the ancient symbolism fell away, water retained its importance in our lives.
A good example of this is the rise in popularity of the seaside holiday, which came to prominence in the late 17th century after Scarborough-based Dr Robert Wittie promoted the curative powers of sea water to almost any medical ailment in a much-read book. The wide admiration of his theory contributed to the rise in the number of people making the pilgrimage to one of Britain’s many seaside spa resorts to seek treatment — a tradition that is alive to this day, give or take the healing properties of seawater.
In modern times, we still keep water close to our hearts and minds, particularly when we feel we need to get away from the hustle and bustle of our daily lives. There is also much to be said about the way it can help to boost our inner wellbeing and inspire creativity.
A blue state of mind
Wallace J. Nichols is a marine biologist and someone who was called the ‘Keeper of the Sea’ by GQ Magazine, so it isn’t surprising that he knows a thing or two about the blue stuff. In his book Blue Mind, he tells us that being close to water can give ‘a mildly meditative state characterized by calm, peacefulness, unity, and a sense of general happiness and satisfaction with life in the moment,’ going on to say that ‘we are beginning to learn that our brains are hardwired to react positively to water and that being near it can calm and connect us, increase innovation and insight, and even heal what’s broken.’
This method of thinking may go some way to explaining why it’s often said that we have our best ideas in the shower. There, we can tap into a relaxed and happy state, where our brains are releasing dopamine and our thoughts are transported away from the minutiae of everyday life. This is something that we can now prove with science, as outlined in this insightful article from Mental Floss. Where we take a shower in our homes today, our ancestors would have bathed in a more natural source of water, which might be why we associate the ocean and river with calmness and creativity. This might also be part of the reason that so many people still use their holiday time to visit a location near a body of water.
A positive impact
The positive effect of spending time on and near the sea is something that has been championed by The Wave Project, a charity that provides young people up and down the UK with surfing lessons to assist in boosting mental wellbeing and self-confidence. The organisation has had plenty of positive feedback, and there has even been statistical evidence collected to suggest that being in the water, getting exercise, and accomplishing a new skill was having an incredible impact on the lives of participating youngsters.
As more research has been carried out into the power of spending time near water, it’s been found that a simple stroll around an aquarium can boost mental wellbeing by a collaborative study carried out by the National Marine Aquarium and Exeter and Plymouth Universities. The findings suggested that people who spent time watching fish in underwater environments could benefit from reductions in blood pressure and heart rate, while experiencing an improved mood. So, the next time you are putting together a city-break itinerary, make sure you give yourself time to wander round the local aquarium and take a break.
My own experience
In my role at The River Cruise Line, it gives me great pleasure to see our customers enjoying themselves on the water. Many people choose river cruising because it removes much of the stress from their trip away, as they don’t need to worry about checking into hotels and arranging transport. They also get to see the historic towns and cities that we visit from a unique perspective, seeing the oldest and most beautiful areas that were first built around the banks of the river.
However, the most enjoyable moment comes once we set off when our passengers begin to see the true beauty of travelling by water. A day spent watching the world go by while cruising along a river will always be more relaxing and fulfilling than being stuck in a car, and it lets you take in the smaller details of life in the region you’re visiting, something you don’t get when you’re whisked by on a train. I think this special sense of contentment is part of the reason why we get so many repeat bookings.
So, the next time you feel like you need to clear your mind, be more creative, or you just need a break, take a stroll along the beach or a walk down a riverbank and you might just find yourself in a much better state of mind.
Tim Fleming is Sales & Business Development Manager at The River Cruise Line, a travel company that specialises in providing relaxing cruises through idyllic landscapes. In this article, he takes a closer look at the power water has to boost wellbeing and how you can take advantage of this special ability.