Dr Wallace J Nichols explains why water is the magic ingredient for holiday happiness
The soothing effect of water is both an ancient and intuitive concept, and by 'adding water' to your travels this curative effect is enhanced even further. Here are a few of my favourite prescriptions to cure whatever ails you: from boredom and lack of inspiration to stress and irritability (not to mention their associated side-effects).
From Chile to China to Colorado, a float down a wild and scenic river remains one of the best ways to get away from the office with your team (or family) and get some serious brainstorming (or bonding) done.
A few years ago, University of Utah psychology professor David Strayer and a New York Times writer took a group of neuroscientists on a seven day expedition down Utah's San Juan River. While not an experiment itself, the scientists experienced new insights into their research back in the lab, felt that time was 'slowing down', and found that ideas flowed more freely.
Pack a bag for the day, weekend or week and start walking down the longest sandy beach you can find. When you reach the end of the beach (or your time off) catch a ride back. There's nothing like a long flat walk by the water to clear your head and promote new thoughts.
In summer 2003 I trekked with my family and a group of friends along the California Coastal Trail from Oregon to Mexico. That walk took us 112 days, and our heads were clear and our creativity flowed. You can do an abbreviated version with just a bit of logistics (and sunblock). After just a few days of walking by water the chaos and chatter of life turns to connections and peace.
Swimming – and even better, scuba diving – through a maze of underwater caves, or cenotes, is the best way to clear your mind. It's not ideal for those prone to claustrophobia, but gliding through caverns can feel just like flying.
Check out Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula or Quintana Roo for some of the most therapeutic diving the world has to offer. But don't try this activity on your own: there's no easy 'up' if you get lost down there.
Before the rise of the health club, spas were simply holes in the ground with natural hot water pouring forth. These days that's still the case, but the amenities have improved. A long soak in hot water sucks the stress from mind and body like squeezing a soaked sponge. The good news is that you can also pull this one off at home, in the bath.
They say the best camera or wine is the one you have in your hand. So too for water. Get out there, seek out some nearby waters and spend time in, on, under or near them. Chances are they may need your help for one reason or another, so join the local groups working to do that.
For my family, those waters are Mill Creek (which runs past our home) and the kelp forests around Greyhound Rock off our 'home' beach, on California's SLOWCOAST. I bathe in the creek waters daily.
These waters are safeguarded by various non-profit organisations, as well as state and federal agencies, open space trusts and a marine protected area network. But there's no better way to keep an eye on them than from in the water!
Blue Mind: How Water Makes You Happier, More Connected and Better At What You Do by Dr Wallace J Nichols can be ordered on Amazon now.