The Blue Mind
A boating magazine is not where I’d normally look for psychological insight or painting inspiration. Nonetheless, a recent article entitled “This Is Your Brain on a Boat,” from BoatU.S., offered both. It reminded me that research studies support what is intuitively obvious to me – we feel better around water.
There’s evidence for it, based on neuroscience. Just looking at water can calm heart rate and breathing, making us happier, empathetic and compassionate. Besides neurochemicals, the explanation is partly that being on the water helps us disconnect and unplug. This is the blue mind, versus the red mind that is constantly stressed and distracted. Water inspires awe, a feeling of connection to something bigger than ourselves, which has been shown to lead to generosity and ethical decision-making.
A research study found two-thirds of boat owners said having a boat made their family closer. As the neuroscience saying goes, “neurons that fire together wire together.” This means our brains build connections that make us feel closer to people with whom we share experiences. So being on or near the water is a great place for a date! The study showed 80% of Americans say being around water relaxes them. It frees up space in our brains by taking away distractions.
All this may explain why I am so compelled to paint water. Last week was particularly challenging, and I found myself working on this new seascape instead of the Spain series I was in the middle of painting. If just seeing water makes people feel better, that helps explain why my seascapes are so popular with collectors. If my work accomplishes that for people, it’s well worth doing.