Photo Credit: Erich Schlegel
Water plays an integral role in our daily lives— it’s essential for our survival. It is evident that we all have a deep connection to water, perhaps more than we realize. Many people talk about getting their daily dose of “vitamin sea” and that aligns with New York Times bestselling author, Dr. Wallace J. Nichols’s book Blue Mind that explores our relationship with water and the positive healing benefits we gain both on a cognitive and emotional level. We require water for our survival, but we also have an underlying dependency on water for recreational use as a pathway to acquiring its positive benefits. In particular, our oceans offer us a place of sanctuary and can help restore and rejuvenate us from stress. It is amazing how by just spending time in the ocean, it has the ability to allow an anxious day to easily slip away. Water, whether it is a lake, river, waterfall or the ocean it has a diversity of positive impacts on us. Memories tied to experiences with water are sure to evoke emotion. Similarly, just spending time in the ocean or sitting on the beach we can easily find ourselves feeling inspired, rejuvenated, empowered, relaxed or we might find ourselves learning an important lesson. For some, our connection is so deep and significant that it stirs something within our heart and soul such that it is clear that we have an important role to play, need to be around water—or a feeling of constantly being drawn to the water—leading to a desire to do all we can to fix what’s broken, be of service and help others.
When we destroy our water, or when disaster strikes, these vast emotional benefits go away. Perhaps it’s in these moments that we appreciate them most.
The oceans have an ability to intricately connect or reconnect us on some level. We live on a blue planet, and the ocean is the very heart of this planet. Water is everything. Water is a precious resource that is invaluable to us for a myriad of reasons. Ultimately, water is life.
The Blue Marbles Project
In addition to writing Blue Mind, Marine biologist Dr. Wallace J Nichols initiated the Blue Marbles Project . His mission was simple, to pass a blue marble through every person’s hand on earth. The significance of the blue marble is one of gratitude. The choice of a blue marble is in recognition of earth appearing as a small blue dot like a blue marble when viewed from space, millions of miles away. It serves as an important reminder that we live on a blue planet, and water is life. Since the inception of the Blue Marbles Project, millions of people have both received and passed on a blue marble in celebration of our beautiful yet fragile planet.
New York Times bestselling author, Dr. Wallace J. Nichols, Blue Mind, dives into the exploration of the deep connection we as human beings have with water on both a cognitive and emotional level. His book, Blue Mind is a fascinating read. Below is an interview with Nichols discussing Blue Mind, his inspiring Blue Marbles Project and 100 Days of Blue campaign.
Q&A with Wallace J. Nichols
1. What inspired you to write Blue Mind?
I wanted to read Blue Mind, not write it. I went searching for a book that connected two areas of personal and professional interest: water, lakes, rivers and oceans AND the human brain, neuropsychology and mental well-being. But I couldn’t find the book or information I was searching for. So, I tried to convince some colleagues that they should write the book and offered to work on it and hand over my research folders. That didn’t work. The last resort was to write the book I was looking for. It took four years and instantly became a New York Times Bestseller, which means a few other people were looking for it too!
2. What was your biggest takeaway from writing Blue Mind and diving deeper into the cognitive and emotional benefits from the ocean and/or water?
I think the big insight is that the way we’ve described the value of healthy waterways and oceans to humans in our efforts to protect and restore them has been dangerously incomplete. People for all recorded human history have described the emotional connection to water. More recently, modern science gives us the tools to describe that relationship in very cool, useful detail. Now it’s time to connect the dots, change the conversation for good and get more work don’t on behalf of our blue planet.
3. What key message about Blue Mind would you like to share with others?
The message is simple: get in the water. Fall in love with your water. Pay attention to all the ways that water makes your life better. Think about it and talk about. Make art and films about it. Then fight for what you love.
4. How has the journey of writing Blue Mind and sharing the novel with the world impacted your life?
I need daily reminders to get near, in, on and under water. Writing Blue Mind has connected me with so many great people who have such amazing water-related skills. It also made it more clear how important it is to pass the love of water along to my daughters, the way my parents did for me. My relationship with water has been the best part of my life after my friends and family. I want everyone to have the opportunity to say that.
5. Is there a message you would like to share about conservation of the ocean or a quote?
Our oceans and waterways hold vast economic, ecological and education value. But they are also a source of incredible emotional benefits that humans need more than ever in our high-tech, over-stimulated, hyper-connected stressed-out world. And water can boost our creativity to solve the biggest hairiest problems facing the planet. It’s a beautiful positive feedback loop, really.
Blue Marbles Project:
1. What inspired the project?
Ocean and environmental communication was in a phase where it was all about bad news, finger-wagging, guilt and fear wrapped in factoids, stats and percentages. Not surprisingly, it wasn’t working to solve problems or grow our blue movement. And frankly, my colleagues and I were feeling burnt out.
I wanted to add a tool to our toolbox that used gratitude, love, recognition, beauty, gift-giving, connection and mindfulness to change the conversation. I came up with idea to pass out recycled glass blue marbles wherever I spoke to people and invite them to pass their marbles on to someone they want to recognize and thank. And then ask that person to do the same. If they felt inclined, they could share the story of their blue marble in whatever way they liked.
The idea had all the ingredients of a viral marketing campaign (no budget, no leaders, few rules, and a very simple, beautiful and sticky message). And that’s what happened. Over a million blue marbles have been shared, reaching tens of millions of people. The stories are beautiful and you’ll find photos of these blue marbles showing up all over the world, near, in, on and under water.
When someone gives you a blue marble and thanks you for doing your part to fix what’s broken here on our planet it’s at the very least a sweet moment, but can also be much more.
100 Days of Blue:
1. What is the 100 days of Blue Campaign?
Similar to the thinking around the Blue Marbles Project, we started 100 Days of Blue simply as a way to invite people to reconnect with their water wherever they are each day throughout the summer. For the past four years from Memorial day through Labor Day (the unofficial start and end of summer) people get near, in, on or under water each day and share their stories. It’s a reminder to get your “blue mind” on and take people with you. We build new habits that connect us to our water in positive ways and perhaps pay closer attention to the factors that may limit access…and try to remove them.
2. What is the goal of 100 Days of Blue?
Our goal is to raise awareness that leads to action and ultimately builds movement. That’s always been the flow of my work. It’s not enough to stop with awareness, or even action. It’s about connecting to each other in a way that grows the global blue movement because the challenges we face require a lot more than individual action.
For me personally, the biggest motivator to keep working and fighting has been a deep emotional connection with nature, water in particular. So that;’s the focus: build that connection in order to grow the blue movement. One splash, dive, wave, dip, plunge at a time!
It’s so great to see people emotionally reconnect with their water, overcome obstacles to get back in their water and help each other make it happen. That’s where it all starts. Ask any ocean champion to share their story about their first dive, first wave, first love of water and you’ll learn about what make them tick, drives them forward and makes them unstoppable. We need more unstoppable blue heroes.
3. How can people get involved in the Campaign?
How can people not get involved! Just go outside, find your water and spend time with it. If you’re inspired to do so, share the story. use the #bluemind hashtag so people can find you. If you want to share some blue marbles or read Blue Mind, get in touch.