This is your brain on water.
Blue Mind, is Walter J Nichols’ book about the science behind our deep connection to water: why we are more relaxed, happier, and more productive when we reconnect with water. It is an easy read, and mixes a few hard-science concepts with a number of observations about how our brains seem to operate differently when we’re shown a picture with water in it.
In terms of the focus of this blog, the benefit of reading the book has more to do with productivity and balance than it does with innovation and leadership, although the book offers stories about how people who have “unhooked” from their electronic distraction-a-minute lifestyles and spent some time near or on water have experienced deeper insights on the issues they’ve been wrestling with.
The subtitle on the cover tells you everything about book’s contents you need to know: “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”. That subtitle so completely describes the book that it’s a little like Agatha Christie writing a subtitle like “How The Detective Discovered That the Butler Was Guilty of the Crime”. But if you’re like me and are “haunted by waters” (as Norman MacLean wrote, and Robert Redford intoned in the movie “A River Runs Through It”), then this is a book for you.
One of the fundamental challenges many of face is not how to “get more done”, which leads to a hamster-wheel effect, but how to be more effective. I sense that popular culture is (slowly) realizing that in order to be effective, humans need sleep, good nutrition, and exercise. When I started in my career, I worked in a place where both men and women had to prove their machismo by one-upping each other every day based upon on how early they arrived to the office and how late they stayed. Were you in the office on Saturdays? Bringing home work with you?
Electronic devices have now enabled that culture to follow us around, with ADD stimulants available for ingestion anytime simply by checking the smartphone in our hand. The hyper-aware brain (which can be a great thing, for instance if you’re being chased by a lion) is referred to by the author as “Red Mind”. The science tells us that while there is a time and place for everything, many of us might be under-nourishing our Blue Mind to the detriment of our health, happiness, and effectiveness – as well as the health of our waterways.
I loved this quote in the book from Arthur C. Clarke “How inappropriate to call this planet Earth when it is quite clearly Ocean”
Here’s hoping you find some time to sit next to some water and tend to your Blue Mind.