Culture

It’s Not In Your Head, Science Says Being Near Water Really Does Make Us Happier

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I grew up (for the most part) on the Central Coast, a place where it’s basically impossible to be further than 15 minutes from the beach at any time. Living there, I very much took it for granted, but years later, after living in the Canadian Rockies for a year and a half, a trip to Vancouver and a whiff of sea air revitalised me in a way I didn’t know I needed.

Again recently, with the incredibly shit year that has been 2020, I found myself — a long time resident of Sydney‘s Inner West — desperate to be closer to the water again. So I moved.

I thought maybe it was just me, and the salt spray triggering memories from home. In reality though, it’s all of us who crave the water. Whether it’s the ocean, a lake or a pond or anything else: we’re drawn to it.

 

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This isn’t new to science. In fact, doctors in the Victorian era often prescribed “sea air” as a natural cure all (they probably weren’t always right, but the principal is there). A 2009 project called Blue Gym discovered that people who live by water are generally happier and healthier.

A year later in 2010, a study called Blue Space found that not only did seeing bodies of water in real life improve positivity and were perceived by participants as more restorative, but the same results were found to be true of pictures that included water, as opposed to those that didn’t.

 

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In 2014, marine biologist Wallace J. Nichols, Ph.D. wrote a whole book on the physical and psychological benefits of water — even if it’s just a dew drop on your plant babies. According to Nichols, we’re all aware of this feeling — it’s why we so often see waterside locations for our vacays — but we don’t really know why.

“When you ask people to describe that feeling, it’s hard for them to describe other than to say they really like it, need it, and are willing to pay a lot of money for it,” Nichols told Condé Nast Traveler in a 2017 interview.

 

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The point? A trip to anywhere with water is probably the most rejuvenating holiday you can have, and by golly we need rejuvenating this year.

The best trends emerging for travel in 2021 is a growing interest in Aussies hitting the road and looking for small towns and remote locations we would have just flown over in the ~before times~.

Obviously, you need to keep up to date with the latest health and travel advice, but if it’s safe to do so, we have some watery inspo for you.

 

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Like these epic natural swimming holes around the Northern Territory. Or this guide to summer in Victoria, no matter what type of traveller you are. Sydney has amazing beaches, but they can get over-crowded at the best of times. In a world of social distancing, try these secluded swimming spots instead.

Western Australia is another state known for its beaches, and Perth is proving to be one of the most popular holiday destinations this year. Here are the best beaches to hit up while you’re there. South Australia has some truly breath-taking outback landscapes, but if you can’t find somewhere with a pool, maybe try this road trip down the Limestone Coast instead.

Then there’s Queensland. I don’t think I need to tell you about QLD and it’s epic water experience around the Great Barrier Reef, but you might not know about some of it’s better natural swimming holes.

(Lead Images: Unsplash / Matt Howard)