The Health Benefits of Being By Water
Be it a canal, a lake or an ocean, scientists are quantifying the positive cognitive and physical effects of water and why it induces a meditative state that makes us happier, healthier, calmer, more creative, and more capable of awe.
Many a scribe, poet, painter, and sailor have attested to the feeling of wellness and joy when they’re in, or near, water. Albert Einstein had his most important realisations while sailing—water taught him physics principles, and though he wasn’t much of a sailor, he spent as much time as possible in a boat.
In 1908, when Kenneth Graham wrote his classic novel ‘The Wind in the Willows’, he already knew then about the benefits of boating. Ratty informs Mole, “Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.”
More recent research, coined Blue Mind Science—the study of aquatic environments’ health benefits – has revealed that being around water could offer the natural cure for your stress, anxiety, anger or general mood swings.
One thing the world can agree on, the pandemic has taken it’s toll on us all; lockdowns, quarantine, isolation and travel restrictions have amplified the importance of looking after our mental well-being and for this, many of us have taken to the therapeutic vistas of the great outdoors.
In addition to water’s natural therapeutic effect, we thought we’d share the National Health Service’s recommended five steps to mental well-being, and explain just how a Blue Otter narrowboat cruise can help provide you with that all important daily dose of joy.
5 steps to mental wellbeing
- Connect with other people
When you are on a narrowboat everybody waves from the towpath and don’t be surprised when complete strangers call out with a cheery ‘Hello’. According to the NHS, connecting with other people helps you to improve your well-being by sharing positive experiences.
A narrowboat holiday presents the perfect opportunity to get away from it all…and meet new people through new experiences. Simply passing the time of day with a pedestrian on the towpath when opening a bridge, chatting with a lock-keeper or spending quality time with people in a more relaxed environment can be just the tonic to give your mental well-being a boost.
- Be physically active
A relaxing holiday doesn’t necessarily translate to being lazy. Canal holidays require tiller work, hopping on and off the boat to open swing bridges, working the locks, all while savouring the views and then mooring up wherever the mood takes you.
Canals also intersect with hiking routes, such as The Pennine Way in Gargrave, Yorkshire, so you can spend a day exploring the Yorkshire Dales or hiking a hill before heading back to your floating home.
- Learn new skills
With Blue Otter Boats we give all our first-time guests full tuition on boat handling, spending the first few hours literally teaching them the ropes. From how to pilot a boat, navigate bridge openings, traverse the locks and the mechanics of lock paddles, to mooring up for the night.
We only leave our guests to go it alone when they feel confident with the new skills they’ve acquired. A strong wind can play havoc, especially when you’re trying to navigate a series of bends. But that’s all part of the fun, and you’ll feel at ease when going through a series of locks, opening bridges and emerge out of dark tunnels smiling.
- Give to others
Random acts of kindness offer a sense of reward, purpose and enhance positive feelings. It doesn’t have to be a grand gesture, small acts of giving will help to improve well-being. Helping out a fellow boater at a lock or offering advice about narrowboat cruising, a tip about a shop or restaurant at the last town you cruised through, all these are hugely appreciated by boaters. Such is the sense of community on the liquid highways, it’s another reason why narrow boat cruising is good for your well-being.
And if you enjoy your canal holiday so much that you don’t want to stop there, The Canal & River Trust has a wide range of volunteering opportunities that also help you to connect with others, learn more skills, be physically active and give of your time – four ways to improve your well-being!
- Be present
Paying more attention to the present moment, also known as mindfulness, has been shown to improve mental well-being. Canals are fascinating water highways, forming a network which offers travellers a glimpse into a very different way of life as it weaves it’s way 2000 miles across England’s landscape.
Long or short, straight or surprisingly bendy at times (our Skipton guests in particular enjoy a ‘Curly Whirly’ stretch of the Leeds to Liverpool canal between Gargrave and East Marton), canals transform your world into one where the top speed is 4 mph, often even slower. Taking the time to soak up your surroundings – the countryside, the wildlife, the old mills and the industrial history of the landscape – within minutes on board, you’ll see things differently.
It’s little wonder that The Canal & River Trust’s slogan is ‘Life’s better by water‘. The only thing you now need to worry about, is how to pack for your well-being holiday on the canals?