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RECO Reads: Blue Mind by Wallace J. Nichols

Picture this.

You are standing at the edge of the water. A sea breeze envelops you. The foam of a wave rolls over your feet. Sun beats upon your back. Life is most beautiful under this lens.

You exhale. And you dive in. A sense of calm seeps through your skin.

But what is it about the water that calms us? What sort of magic does it hold within?

Thousands of answers to this question exist, though the fantastic and expertly-researched book Blue Mind by Wallace J. Nichols aims to narrow them down.

I have written about the phenomenon of water’s healing properties before. This piece spoke specifically about the therapeutic properties of the ocean, though Blue Mind looks at water as a whole. Through anecdotes from his own life and childhood associations combined with research and scientific facts, he uncovers a new way of thinking about water, and the many ways in which it impacts us—emotionally, physically, mentally, and psychologically.

The term “blue mind” refers to a state of being that connects us with the changes that happen in the brain when we interact with water. This theme threads throughout the entire book, and offers valuable insight into the connections that human beings have formed with water over time. As Nichols states, “[Water’s] the most omnipresent substance on Earth and, along with air, the primary ingredient for supporting life as we know it.”

Nichols goes on to describe “blue mind” in great detail, and also touches upon several areas that have been proven to be positively affected by adopting this mentality. One of these areas is addiction treatment.

In a section about the healing properties of water in regard to addiction, Nichols tells the story of many surfers who used “surf therapy” to further their recovery.

“[…] healing on the water actually comes from replacing the rush produced by addiction and other at-risk behaviors with the more natural dopamine “high” produced by surfing, white-water kayaking, sailing, or competitive paddleboard racing,” wrote Nichols.

Nichols cautions that the disease of addiction is complicated, and that the healing benefits of water are not a cure-all, though the “curative effects” are well-noted.

The therapeutic properties of water can be traced back to ancient times. Hippocrates introduced the concept of “thalassotherapy,” or the use of seawater for health purposes. A relationship between water and health is one that lasts a lifetime.

No matter your past associations with water, Blue Mind proves to be a fascinating read. It examines a substance that has been part of our lives since the beginning: a silent force that creates influential connections with us on a daily basis.

In Delray Beach we are fortunate enough to have a beautiful body of water right in our backyard. Blue Mind is a tribute to the good that water can cultivate, and the power it has to transform our point of view. The result of this labor of love project by Nichols is a memorable combination of science and the elusive spirit of water itself, not quite as easily written down.


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