I have always been fascinated with the neuroscience behind water’s creativity-boosting effect on the brain.
When I first met my husband, he told me the only place he was able to relax and let go of the crippling pressure of the corporate world was on a cruise ship. He loves Celebrity Cruises because they have a huge open area at the back of the ship where you can enjoy breakfast or a drink while gazing out on the ship’s wake, and the endless turquoise water.
Whenever we humans are close to a large water body, we tend to get a cognitive break because there is simply less information coming our way.
Our brains do not shut down. Instead, they keep working, but in a different way.
In our busy day-to-day lives, we rarely allow our minds to rest and wander freely, but whenever we do, it switches into another mode of engagement, which is commonly referred to as the default mode network.
This usually entails imagination, daydreaming, consolidation of memories, insight, self-referential thought, and introspection.
All these aspects are essential for creativity.
In fact, this is one of the main reasons why when we get into the shower we tend to think clearly and come up with insight and ideas. In the shower you are also removing a lot of the visual stimulation of your day.
Rather than switching off, when you’re showering, your brain switches into a different mode — and while the brain is in a more restful state, suddenly you’re able to make those new or unusual connections. The “Eureka” moment comes at last — the insight or solution “feels like it drops out of the sky and into your head.
Auditorily, it’s the same thing — it’s a steady stream of ‘blue noise.’ You’re not hearing voices or processing ideas. You step into the shower and it’s like a mini vacation. “The shower can serve as a substitute for the ocean.
Research shows that when a person gets distracted, their mind gets a break and the dopamine released during this time helps the person to create some new creative ideas.
We all are creative; it’s just we sometimes need to get distracted from the complex tasks from our daily life.
We seem to be instinctively drawn to water for a sense of calm and clarity.
We spend our vacations on the beach or at the lake; get exercise and enjoyment from water sports like surfing, scuba diving, sailing, and swimming; refresh ourselves with long showers and soothing baths, and often build our lives and homes around being near the water.
“We are beginning to learn that our brains are hardwired to react positively to water and that being near it can calm and connect us, increase innovation and insight, and even heal what’s broken,” Nichols writes in Blue Mind: 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. When we are close to water, it drives us into a new state of mind, where we leave everything behind. And this is the place where our brain can be at it’s best creatively.