Q: What is Blue Mind?
A; Blue Mind: A mildly meditative state characterized by calm, peace, unity, and a sense of general happiness and satisfaction with life in the moment.
As many of you know, I am a student of Blue Mind science, an advocate for Blue Mind methods, and a practitioner of Blue Mind daily living techniques. There is no doubt in my mind and experience that proximity to, and engagement in, water provides physical health, mental health, and spiritual/relational benefits that have been scientifically identified – and are essential in today’s stressful world.
I’ve had the honor and pleasure of meeting the book’s author, Wallace J. Nichols.
And I’ve even written about my Blue Mind experiences in hopes of others relating to my narrative.
I recently wrote a paper titled Blue Mind and Addiction Recovery that describes the benfits of employing Blue Mind strategies to those seeking recovery from addictions.
Blue Mind can be very useful in helping relinquishees/ adoptees overcome attendant challenges in their lives. Here’s how:
Blue Mind and Relinqushees/Adoptees
A lake is a beautiful thing: with days ending in reflections like crystals shimmering on the surface of it as the sun sets, and with mornings full of freshness and promise.
At night, a lake is an extension of the sky. Millions of stars above you as you lie down, facing the sky, the waves lapping gently against the side of the boat. You are cocooned, lulled to an incredible sense of peace.
Growing up by a lake alters you—the natural, good energy of it stays in you forever, and you can never quite leave it behind. It’s a siren voice that calls you over and over to come back and immerse yourself again.
“It’s safe here,” the voice says, “it’s home; it’s love.”
Close your eyes and picture yourself near a body of water—whether it’s a sea or a lake or even a swimming pool. Go back in time, maybe even back to your childhood, or recall a recent memory of being at a cottage or on a beach. Can you remember the feelings associated with those memories?
Photo of the author looking and feeling very nauti circa mid 1960s frolicking at a beach the he, in no way coincidentally, currently resides 300 yards from.
They are usually of tranquility, peace, and carefree contentment. Hopefully, the body of water you’ve imagined was a beautiful shade of blue, and you can still remember how the sound of waves lulled you into calmness.
What you might have been experiencing during those moments is what the author and marine biologist, Dr. Wallace J. Nichols calls “Blue Mind,” which is also the title of his bestselling book that discusses this phenomena.
Studies have found that when we are close to water, our brains can experience neurological, psychological, and emotional changes. These changes might be subtle or quite observable, and they’re always positive. Furthermore, simply channeling the color blue in our heads and thinking about water can have beneficial effects.
The concept of Blue Mind can be applied in therapy and counselling—for example, it can be used to help people deal with traumas related to relinquishment. It doesn’t replace standard therapy or meditation, but it can be compliment the healing process. Blue Mind can help relinquishees and adoptees—fostered or orphaned, adopted—feel more connected. Connectedness allows us to develop and strengthen our identities and recover from feeling fragmented or separated from the rest of the world.
Adoptees and relinquishees can suffer from several psychological and emotional issues. Feelings of rejection, abandonment, grief and loss are common and can show up at any time during one’s lifetime. The idea of having been relinquished can cause many people to also believe that there is inherently something wrong with them, which in turn interrupts healthy ego development and damages their self-esteem.
The psychologist Eric Erikson talks about how adolescence is the prime time for the search for self-identity. This search is especially challenging to people who have never met their biological parents and don’t have any information about their background.
Each year, in the United States, 12 to 14 percent of adopted children get diagnosed with a mental health issue. Children who were adopted are twice as likely as their peers to suffer from mood disorders. Many suffer from anxiety and attachment disorders, such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Reactive Attachment disorder (RAD) where a child avoids caretakers and getting comforted, and further develops feelings of not belonging, along with loss of identity.
The damage often extends to adulthood, and many adoptees and relinquishees don’t have proper coping mechanisms, and can experience a variety of problems, including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Substance Use Disorder, depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety—the list goes on.
One of the ways of healing from relinquishment trauma can be done through by applying the Blue Mind concept. Teaching people to seek out proximity to bodies of water, encouraging them to spend time trying to achieve Blue frame of Mind by using what’s available—pools, aquariums, pictures—and helping them to create an inner world that relies on this philosophy can foster mindfulness, and calm.
Furthermore, with time and practice, Blue Mind will help people to develop a more solid concept of self. A strong sense of self can be built through a number of conscious steps, for example, through learning to differentiate yourself from others, through connecting with yourself by establishing your own set of rules and boundaries, or when seeing life challenges as lessons. Being in the state of Blue Mind allows you to find the quiet, welcoming space within, where you can internally “sit back and relax,” reflect and mindfully allow those ideas to anchor inside you.
Whether it’s physically possible to get close to the body of water or just focusing on a picture of the ocean, we can enhance the sense of belonging to the world once we include water in our life as a therapeutic tool.
In Nichol’s research, he has discovered a number of benefits which we can apply to adoptee populations. An extremely useful example would be reinforcing our connection to the natural world and one another through embracing Blue Mind philosophy—with adoptees this could mean finally feeling that they are a part of something bigger than them, finding relational (and spiritual for some) connection, and, finally, being able to ground self in reality.
Using Blue Mind can also diminish anxiety—that in turn can help calm and assist in medication management of stress symptoms. A calm sense of self will help to lead a mindful, meaningful life, as well as being able to quiet out influences and others’ expectations. An independent, mindful way of thinking can help develop greater sense of identity and increase self-esteem. Setting up boundaries, taking time to take care of own needs, and finding one’s own values and purpose can all be achieved through conscious effort to stay within the Blue Mind frame. This kind of mind is strong enough that it can repair or redefine lost connections, calm fears, and reduce need to self-soothe in maladaptive ways, such as through addictive behaviors.
In Nichol’s research he has also found that Blue Mind promotes creativity. In adoptees, focusing on creativity can help to develop a sense of accomplishment, help build resilience, and even create and sustain life philosophies that will withstand the old ways of being enslaved to thoughts filled with guilt or shame.
The philosophy of Blue Mind is an antidote to the hardships of the modern world—stress, anxiety, and overworking, which Nichols calls Red Mind. It is also an alternative to Gray Mind, which is a state of numbness, lack of motivation and lethargy. Red and Gray Minds mean speed, screens, technology, exhaustion, and all the caveats of living in current society.
Nichols argues that Blue mind is a natural state that we all instinctively know but have forgotten. We must use Blue Mind to help us go back to that natural state and re-connect with the world. An hour spent sitting by the lake or listening to the sound of the rain can sometimes be enough to remove the negative noise from our mind and make it open and pliable. It can help us to find safety and resilience in order to further evolve. It can help us to feel that we belong.
The English-American poet W.H. Auden wrote, “Thousands have lived without love, not one without water.”
Allow me to add my conclusion: that it is water—and Blue Mind—that can lead us to attachment and connection. And to love.
David B. Bohl of Beacon Confidential LLC is an independent addiction consultant. He was relinquished at birth, then adopted through a private adoption. He is the author of the award-winning adoption and recovery memoir Parallel Universes: The Story of Rebirth. David relentlessly pursues Blue Mind, spending as much time as he can on or near the water, ice-covered or otherwise.
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