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Float On: The Meditative Balm of Blue Spaces

Blue Reminder by Josef Albers via ArtNet

The first time I visited Australia from England, I headed to the beach at dusk with a friend. Sitting at the edge of the surf, I looked out into infinity and felt something click. All the anxiety, doubt and confusion I’d been grappling with over a looming life decision seemed to melt away.

The sound of the water and the coolness of the deep blue lapping my toes wrapped me in stillness. I took a few deep breaths and let myself believe everything was going to work out the way it should.

That decision was whether I should move to Australia or not and after four years of living here, it’s a decision I’ve never regretted. I like to think back and thank my time by the ocean on that first trip for helping me let go of the struggle I was facing. Over the last few years, I’ve embraced a more water-loving Australian lifestyle with wonderful results for my emotional health.

It’s also led me to learn more about a rarely mentioned psychological phenomenon - the healing power of blue space for well-being.

What is Blue Space?

Green spaces - walks in the woods, hiking through mountains, or spending time in a flourishing garden - and their healing effects are well documented. Doctors globally have begun issuing ‘green prescriptions’, encouraging patients to spend time in green spaces for their mental health. The concept is backed by research advising how green spaces benefit psychological well-being and promote healthy social engagement.

Blue space is the counterpoint to green space, where bodies of water can have an equally calming and meditative impact on our state of mind. It’s why we find the ocean speaks to us, but it’s not just the ocean - rivers, lakes, canals, and natural waterfalls - even fountains - all count as blue space.

Where the science between the positive impact of green spaces is well documented and publicised, the science for blue spaces has been less so. This is despite a decade of research proving the same point: Being close to a blue space is just as good for our mental, physical and emotional well-being.

I was recently introduced to Places We Swim, a beautiful collaboration between creative couple, Caroline Clements and Dillon Seitchik-Reardon, which wonderfully highlights the reverence of blue spaces across Australian communities.

Through a series of curated guides, Caroline and Dillon are documenting places across Australia that invite people to swim. From lap pools to ocean pools, rockpools to hot springs, Places We Swim (2018) covers the breadth of Australia, showcasing 60 best places to swim, dive, jump, paddle and float around the country. Caroline Advises:

“Our travels across Australia really showcased to us that no matter where you, there is a connection to water, whether that’s coastal swimming or inland pools and lakes. Swimming is so innate to us.”

After moving to Sydney, Caroline and Dillon became aware of how swimming and access to blue spaces is a huge component within their new community. Places We Swim: Sydney was published in 2020 to celebrate this culture.

Referencing this discovery in their home, Caroline notes:

“It’s very much a water-based city and swimming is a huge part of the day-to-life. Within urban planning, green spaces are regularly cited but blue spaces not so much. The community definitely gathers and celebrates these spaces and it’s really interesting that we now have a specific recognition and language around ‘blue space’ to acknowledge their importance psychologically and socially.”

This is an except from 'Float On', printed in Issue 5 of Wellbeing WILD Magazine. You can purchase the full copy here.


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