Have you ever lost yourself in the beauty of the ocean, a flowing waterfall, or even an aquarium? You are certainly not alone. Water is known to give us a sense of peace and serenity. In fact, medical studies
have found less cortisol (the stress hormone) and more serotonin, oxytocin, and dopamine (the feel-good hormones) in people as they spend time in, on, or around the ocean.
When we’re around water, our brain becomes engaged in our environment and we enjoy pleasant sensory stimulation. We become so focused that we enter a mindful state. As a result, we enjoy lower stress levels; relief from anxiety, pain, and depression; improved mental clarity and focus; and better sleep.
Water also inspires a sense of awe
, as we take in the vastness of the ocean or swim in a large lake. These experiences make us aware of and appreciate our place in this immense world. Such awe-inspiring experiences boost our mood, making us feel happier and calmer.
Water also provides soothing sounds that help us feel calm, as evidenced by all the relaxation and sleep aids that use sounds of the ocean and the sound of waterfalls – whether it be crashing waves, the pitter patter of rainfall, or the rush of a flowing river.
Why does the sound of water cause this reaction? Studies
show that it’s based on how our brain interprets different noises. These slow, rhythmic whooshing sounds are non-threatening, which is why they calm us down. Also, the sound of water is a type of white noise that helps drown out other noises that might cause us concern.
Find ways to expose your children to awe-inspiring water scenes and sounds, such as:
· Plan trips where you can visit impressive water sights like Niagara Falls, the turquoise sea in the Caribbean, waterfalls in Hawaii, and the Great Lakes.
· Visit marine nature centers and aquariums.
· Spend time at the beach and encourage your children to express how the scene makes them feel in creative ways like writing, painting, or singing about it.
· Go fishing or on a boat ride or cruise.
· Listen to water sounds to calm your children at bedtime.
Immerse In It
Spending time in water has a tremendous soothing effect. Some believe this is because it’s reminiscent of the time we spent in our mother’s womb surrounded by amniotic fluid
. It may also be related to how the water makes us feel weightless and free.
Studies show that floating can change our brain waves and reduce cortisol levels, therefore making us feel more relaxed. Swimming is also known to boost endorphins that increase feelings of well-being. Plus, the rhythmic strokes and sound of water make swimming very relaxing. Research
shows that swimming produces the same relaxation response as yoga, increasing calming chemicals and allowing us to enter a meditative state. When we swim laps, we can focus simply on our strokes and breathing, making it easy to shut off all the noises and activity going on outside the pool.
Baths and showers have been used as ways to escape daily stress for ages. By practicing some mindfulness during a bath or shower, we can really focus on the sensations on our skin and the sounds of the trickling water. This helps us be in the moment and forget our worries.
Look for opportunities for your children to spend time in water:
· Sign them up for swim lessons or join a swim team.
· Encourage them to practice floating on their back in the pool.
· Choose vacations where you can enjoy swimming and water sports.
· Turn bath time into a mindfulness moment by asking them questions about how the water feels and sounds.
Let’s also not forget how critical water is to our health. By simply drinking enough water throughout the day, children can minimize feelings of stress and anxiety. Water plays such an important role in how our body functions. All of our organs, including our brain, need water to work properly. If we are dehydrated, our body is strained and we can become stressed and edgy. Dehydration can actually cause symptoms that feel like anxiety, such as dizziness, muscle fatigue, headache, feeling faint, increased heart rate, and nausea.
Dehydration has also been linked to higher cortisol levels. According to the Calm Clinic
, water appears to have natural calming properties. Drinking water can be soothing, and our body can benefit from the added hydration when we are stressed.
It is so important that we encourage our children to drink to stay hydrated every day to help them stay calm and balanced. The amount of water a child needs depends on several factors like activity level and local weather, but in general children should drink at least six to eight cups of water per day.
Your children will probably need more water if they’re participating in sports. It’s suggested that they drink a half cup to two cups of water every 15 to 20 minutes while exercising. For specific recommendations, see the Dietary Reference Intakes
(DRIs) developed by the Institute of Medicine (IOM).