’cause I gotta peaceful easy feelin’. When I live on Lake Michigan, even in the coldest of months, I feel better. When something stressful happens or I’m feeling low I will bundle up, grab a snow shovel, walk to the edge of the embankment, plop the shovel in the snow, and plant my bum in its scoop to sit there channeling my inner Cherokee in meditation. The neighbors have probably gotten over the shock of seeing me at the edge of a small cliff, poised to possibly sled straight down into the freezing waters lapping up on shore. Having a beer in hand probably dissipates that thought. What moron would be able to enjoy a beer after crash landing into the icy waves at the bottom? Someone who’s already had a few too many, perhaps.
Sometimes the lake seethes with me. Other times it lulls me like a mother comforting her whimpering wee one to just rest and be at peace. Other times, purely the vast expanse of the fresh water sea is enough to remind me how small I really am, how small my problems really are, and how loved I feel that the Creator would even take notice.
What is it about open waters, flowing waters, that soothe the soul? There is a psychological explanation for this. It may cost you more in the green stuff, but it may also benefit your health and mental well being.
What’s good for the mind is good for the body. Professor Michael Depledge out of England has conducted studies on this. People responded positively to green expanses, even more so to green expanses with water. Furthermore, the closer to the water people were within that green expanse was even more pleasing to them. Following that, the greater the size of the body of water to which they were in proximity, the more favorable the result. Depledge eventually concluded, “Self-reported health correlates very well with real health. For the first time, we have had this information according to postcode, and we found that the closer you live to the English coast the healthier you are. There was some evidence that other aquatic environments helped too.” – From TheGuardian
Blue Mind, Blue Heaven. Check out a copy of the book Blue Mind: The Surprising Science That Shows How Being Near, In, On, or Under Water Can Make You Happier, Healthier, More Connected, and Better at What You Do by Wallace J. Nichols. A real estate broker I know read this to enhance his knowledge of what waterfront living can do. Personally, being part of the real estate industry for a time, I can attest to this. Homeowners on the water have a very chillaxed persona — (And, yes, that is a made up word). The vibes in their homes are less frenetic, their dispositions are more laid back and carefree. Every placard saying “Life is better at the lake” along the entire shore of Lake Michigan and northern Michigan inland lakes is not just some trite statement. Huffington Post contributor, Carolyn Gregoire, lays out before us the six health and psychological benefits Nichols attributes to being near the water, and what it means to have a blue mind. I highly recommend checking out her post above.
A blue mind is a creative mind. As a creative person, the first place I wanted to be when I started working on my memoirs was to be near the water. It’s cleansing to my mind. I can be in a rut all day, but when I step outside and just let the sights, sounds, and blue expanse of the lake engulf me, the first thing I want to do when I get inside is write down the creative beginnings that came to my blue mind on the bluff. Many of my non-fiction creative essays and chapters have sprung from this experience.
People smile and tell me I’m the lucky one to be able to have some time on the lake for my writing. I do feel lucky, blessed, in many ways, to have the opportunity. As a penniless writer it was a find of the godsend variety to be able to have a chance to do so. And I hope to again. You don’t have to be wealthy, just creative. Ask a friend to use their cottage near the end or the beginning of their off-season for a time. Many people winterize in northern states, but may hold off, or open up early for a good friend for a month or two. You never know. If you’re within reasonable driving distance of a large body of water, make the trip once a week, or more. Sit by the water. Get your blue mind fix. Rivers and inland lakes are lovely too. Find a public park with waterfront access to just run, do yoga, or sit with your thoughts, a cup of Joe, and a journal.
Join the blue mind group. Be aware of you mental status, your physical well-being. Some things could be alleviated by simply getting that blue mind effect. If all else fails, let the kids tear up the living room and go in the bathroom, lock the door, and stand under the spray of your shower head. It will clear your mind, give you space to just be, bring out your creative side, and give you the respite you need to see the destroyed living room and not go ballistic. Get out to the water when you can. With your partner. With your kids. It’s good for them too.Take more beach days in summer.You will feel relaxed and your kids will fall asleep on the way home. Win-win!
You don’t have to be rich, as Prince might say. (A nod to my husband’s obsession). But you can be rich in mind, body and spirit. I feel God when I am near the water. It’s where I sense his presence, his power, his majesty, his expansiveness. When I feel small and at peace, my heart is open to hear. I become meditative. I feel cleansed. I feel refreshed. When King David says, “He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul,” what better scene of a peaceful encounter could one need than Psalm 23? David had a blue mind. And so can we.