Friday, 24 November 2017

Happy connections

The past has proved that I'm not really addicted to write ups about published and bound materials otherwise known as books. 
Maybe self-inflicted. 
Or maybe there aren't too many distinctive books concerning hot springs enjoyment out there. Certainly not on Southeast Asia.

So if I mention that this review concerns a book entitled Blue Mind which delves into the psychology of water through popular science, one could question why take the trouble in reviewing it here?

I don't know how I came to decide to purchase this book, but the catchy subtitle
"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"
did vex my interest.

Now I believe that I need not be more happier nor healthier; the limits to both are fully understood by myself. 
Would I want more of either, I would need to trade in current circumstances with the possibility that I could get it wrong; playing it safe seems to work for me at this moment in time.

But it's more the fact that I'm seeking justification as to why I'm satisfied with my levels of happiness or health that I'm currently experiencing. 
In respect to being able to recreate with water: living near the sea, in winter I daily cycle along the shore even if only heading to work, while in summer I daily take a dive/swim.
I also purchased a hot tub not too long ago and currently spend every evening enjoying the sounds of the distant waves interspersed with the various calls of the nearby birdlife. 
I feel fit. Physically and psychologically.

In Blue Mind, Wallace Nichols takes us on a journey passing various aspects of how water influences our mind and positively charges that same mind to counteract what he mentions as the red mind: that part of a brain which gets stressed out by various levels of modern day with it's 24/7 connected to screens and instant connectivity.

Certainly the introduction to neuroscience, neurology of happiness and bringing us up to date on how our minds (are supposed to) work is interesting enough. With science there to provide the backdrop, there's no doubting how water is positively influencing individual and collective minds.
"... the highest increase in happiness in an outdoor environment occured when people were near water".
Though Blue Mind hopes to attract more people to experience natural water, in the paragraph on immersion therapy, the author shows that simply experiencing water under a shower already results in increasing Blue Mind attributes. 
It's a pity that the same paragraph is the only paragraph which touches on soaking as such, though only regards to hot tubs not the natural soaks we crave.
"And as a sign of therapeutic potency, in Japan, where bathing is a social as well as a personal ritual, several contemporary studies have shown that hot-water immersion can increase activity in the parasympathetic nervous system while decreasing it in the sympathetic nervous system (an indication of relaxation)-..."
Blue feelings
The narrative is quite Americana-esque. Though proving through science that experiencing water and happiness are correlated, the author chooses to go beyond the conclusion and (in my understanding) seeks establishing a religion ( of worshipping water connectedness, complete with it's get-togethers and the passing on of blue marbles to prospective (happy) disciples.

In a time where public concern about our collective future is overriding (think climate change), Mr. Nichols fails to use the findings and his established movement to encourage protection of our natural waters. 
For instance, just view a recent episode of the popular BBC documentary Blue Planet II and you'll realise how action trumps words and why the lack of using his platform to encourage conservation is a major miss
Let's hope more Blue Mindfullness is to come ...

Is there a message we can take from this book? 

Besides the individual pursuit of  happiness, there's precious little advice on how to protect and share the dwindling opportunities to interact with water. Especially in Southeast Asia where public access is easily sold-off for private gain, there should be more shouldering calls for expansion of nature parks and protecting pristine areas and keeping the few remaining natural (thermal) areas as pristine as possible.

But it is a very positive book which does encourage us to get out there and enjoy.

On internet you'll be able to find more reviews of Blue Mind. Take this from the Guardian (16 Jul. 2014):
'To be filed under "popular psychology", Blue Mind is a study in water and why it makes us happy. It's also, almost accidentally, a sort of autobiography.  
Almost against my will, I liked this book for its mad spirit'.
A recent interview with Wallace (USAToday, 13 Nov. 2017):
'Blue mind is not achieved while you are on Instagram ... ever. It’s impossible. One of the requirements is logging out, turning off and putting the screens away'.
Nichols, W.J. (2014) Blue Mind. Back Bay Books, New York, U.S.A.

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