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Blue Water Bliss: The Psychological Benefits of a Tropical Holiday

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Blue Water Bliss: The Psychological Benefits of a Tropical Holiday

Quick, without thinking too much, consider what the words “tropical paradise” bring most immediately to your mind’s eye. What do you see? If you are like me, it looks something like this: a lazily leaning palm tree or two, a white sand beach, perhaps a drifting sailboat just offshore, and the calm lapping of unbelievably blue blue waters.

The surprising thing one discovers in traveling to the tropics is that this vision of paradise is fairly accurate. Some of the details may differ—maybe you have a rugged green-clad mountain rising behind your beach or across the bay, or perhaps a lagoon bordered by a crashing reef is part of your daily seascape—but the most inalterably bliss-inducing aspect of most tropical sojourns is the blue blue water part. Long after you’ve returned to your non-tropical climes, say in the cold of a northern night, the calm of that blue stays with you.

It turns out than none of this is outright fantasy or the mere romantic imaginings of an artistically inclined wanderer. It’s science: Researchers have begun to prove that “blue space” (the scientific term for landscapes dominated by bodies of water) has a measurably positive impact on human psychological and physical health. One study, by Michigan State University, showed evidence that being near bodies of water lowers levels of “psychological distress.” Another paper by the Institute for Hygiene and Public Health surveyed dozens of studies related to “blue space” and human health and found ample correlation between being near water and overall well-being — also noting how this has been an acknowledged truth throughout human history, in part because the contemplative and restorative impacts bodies of water tend to have on people.

“Water is recognized as a natural mirror, creating mystery by providing a picture that is not as clear as a normal mirror,” the Institute’s paper said. “Water covers body requirements and is therefore a symbol of purity, expressed in human mental and spiritual life.”

Allow me to humbly submit my own research, having very luckily spent entire days in the idling mode of beach living, awash in the soothing sounds, salty tastes and sun-blasted feel of ocean air upon my skin and my soul. You are able to see the workaday aspects of your life for what they are, and at this sweet distance, ease into a slow smile emanating from the perspective of your happier senses. It’s a feeling of floating above and within your life: some stresses might still be there, but they aren’t such a big deal after all :)