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"Blue spaces" unexpected benefits!

Ten years after researchers first found that "blue spaces" could be good for us, the concept is proving to be a powerful, practical tool for mental health

Amidst the gentle rock of the sea, the breeze tickling their skin, and the distant caw of seagulls, six people in lifejackets close their eyes for a "mindful check-in". They are aboard the deck of Irene, a 120ft (37m) tall ship with timber frames and majestic sails which is cruising off the coast of Cornwall in the UK.

These kinds of mindfulness exercises have become increasingly mainstream in the last decade, but they tend to be practiced from the comfort of the home or a therapist's office – not the deck of a ship.

However, UK charity Sea Sanctuary, which operates Irene, believes its combination of marine activities and therapy provides a uniquely beneficial form of mental health support. A practitioner of "blue health" – the concept that being in or near blue spaces such as rivers, lakes and the sea boosts our emotional wellbeing – the charity has been organising trips around the Cornwall coastline since 2006.

Many of the charity's client sailors, largely people who experience anxiety and depression, sign up to a voyage to benefit from sessions with the ship's therapist while also learning a new skill. They can be referred by charities and social workers or enroll themselves.

Steve Ridholls, a former police officer, is sailing with Sea Sanctuary to calm the anxiety and PTSD he battles.

"I used to talk people down from cliffs and bridges or respond to suicides and car crashes," he says. "I saw things my mind can't unsee. Much of my PTSD came from helplessness – when you witness something you can't do anything about."

The loss of human-nature interaction has been linked to a rising tide of mental health disorders. A growing body of evidence indicates that human health, both mental and physical, is intrinsically linked to nature.

Just looking at natural scenery has been found to cause rapid beneficial psychological and physiological changes in salivary cortisol, blood flow, blood pressure and brain activity. Meanwhile, contact with microbes in the environment can "train" our immune systems, reinforcing the good microbial communities on our skin and in our airways and guts.

Many experts now believe blue spaces, such as lakes and rivers, could be even more beneficial than green ones.

"Blue spaces provide us with distractions that take our mind away from the day-to-day hassles of life," says Kate Campbell, a health psychology researcher at Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. "The sound of the crashing waves, the smell of salty air, the crunching of sand beneath our toes…The sensations relax our bodies and tell our minds to switch off."

Niamh Smith, a researcher at GCU and co-author of the study, says the team found an impact on both mental and general health from spending time in blue spaces. The research also linked time spent in blue space to a reduction in body mass index (BMI) and a lower risk of mortality.

In fact, blue spaces are so good for your health they can be now prescribed by your doctor in what we call "Blue prescribing"

"My depression comes in cycles," says Harune Akthar, speaking from his West London home.

Around ten years ago, the 27-year-old was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, ADHD, depression and anxiety.

"When I had a bad day, it would take three to four days for me to come out of it," he says. "I slept and ignored everyone including my family – and I love my family. I wouldn't eat. You'd rarely see me."

For years, Akthar tried a range of different therapies but didn't find any that helped him. Then, in June this year, his doctor referred him to the Blue Prescribing scheme run by the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT), a charity.

Single parents, long-Covid sufferers and those with chronic conditions or poor mental health are among those who are eligible for the six-week programe, delivered at the WWT’s London Wetland Centre.

Once a week, participants go for guided walks in the wetlands. They also do sensory engagement activities – birdwatching, clay modeling, herbal tea tasting or creating "scent cocktails".

According to the Mental Health Foundation (MHF), partners of WWT, 65% of people find being near water improves their mental wellbeing.

Even the sound of water can be enough to reduce stress in people.

Maybe all colors have their own therapy? who knows? Nevertheless, we all find peace within mother nnature, which is why we call her "mother."

The full article can be read at the Source Link below.

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