To say that 2020 and 2021 have been stressful, confusing, frustrating, and distressing would be a massive understatement. It's been a rough two years. So it comes as no surprise to see statistics on how people are feeling mentally now, look very different than usual. A survey taken in April of this year stated that 56% of Canadians feel depressed and hopeless. 72% are more tired and have little energy. Furthermore, 44% of Canadians have increased their alcohol consumption, and 72% have increased their social media usage. Overall, according to the Canadian Mental Health Association only 35% of people in Ontario say their mental health is very good or excellent, compared to the 52% figure that was recorded in May of 2020. With bleak statistics such as these, it is now so important for us to be looking after our mental health, and curiously enough, this can start with something as simple as water...
If you close your eyes and attempt to transport yourself to a relaxing place, where do you find yourself? Sitting on a warm beach? The rhythmic crashing of the waves lulling you into tranquillity. Or maybe you find yourself in a zen garden, the soothing trickle of a stream and wind instruments in the air. Water has to be one of the most common white noises to put people at ease, whether it's the sound of rain or the sound of waves, there is no doubt a peace that can be found when we listen. So what's the connection and why does moving water make us feel this way? It's no coincidence; the answer is Negative Ions, and despite being called negative they have the exact opposite effect on us when we find ourselves in environments full of them. Negative Ions are molecules, and they are created when air molecules break apart due to either sunlight, moving air, or – you guessed it – water! When we are in the presence of natural Negative Ion generators, such as waterfalls, we inhale them into our bloodstream where it is believed they start to produce beneficial biochemical reactions.
Looking back at the statistics from earlier, assessing our mental health and addressing our feelings of depression and lethargy, there's potential that the use and exposure to Negative Ions could drastically reduce these feelings in the following ways:
Increasing serotonin levels. Serotonin is the chemical in our bodies that helps alleviate depression, relieve stress and boost energy.
Increase oxygen to the brain. Increased oxygen to the brain results in more mental energy and reducing drowsiness.
May reduce airborne concentrated particulate matter/germs. Reducing resulting symptoms such as sneezing, coughing and throat irritation.
Psychological effects. The feeling of being in 'awe' when by the ocean or next to a waterfall can compel us to feel a greater satisfaction for life.
Now for some "positive" information that is, well, not so positive- it's Positive Ions. We're talking pollution, toxic chemicals and mold, all of which carry a positive charge. The reason these substances are harmful to us is because our cells typically carry a negative charge, therefore we benefit from Negative Ions and not Positive Ions. Instead of bringing us feelings of happiness and relief, Positive Ions cause feelings of depression, anxiety and stress. Alarmingly, anything toxic or anything that has electromagnetic capabilities will generate these harmful Positive Ions, that means everything from TV's, phones, computers, fluorescent lights, to air pollution. This grimly reveals to us that our homes and offices are unfortunately the places most polluted with Positive Ions. Knowing we spend majority of our time in these spaces is it any wonder after you're trapped inside all day that stepping out into the sunshine is a relief? To give some context, environments like mountain air and waterfalls carry tens of thousands of Negative Ions, whereas our homes and offices carry only dozens to a hundred, if any!
Is all this to say that standing next to a waterfall or stream is going to reverse every challenging day? Or absolutely cure our melancholy? Of course not- but evidence has been found by a research group of scientists in the U.K. known as the “Blue Health” initiative, expressing that spending time in or around water is benefial for both reducing stress and boosting psychological relaxation. So it's no wonder that we spend our vacations with the waves at the beach, or use the serene sounds of rain for sleeping and meditation. Progressively people have even started investing in their own personal water features for their backyards! Including koi fish ponds, natural streams, outdoor fountains, and running waterfalls. Creating their own private oasis to immerse themselves in after a long day spent surrounded by too many serotonin-draining Positive Ions and the chaotic stresses of the world. So here's to 2022, perhaps the year of treating yourself to more Negative Ions and starting a “Blue Health” lifestyle - close your eyes and just hear it now...
“Moving water is 'white noise', in which you can hear many things... just letting sound wash over you is a way of letting go of your ideas and directly experiencing things as they are.”
- Michael Wenger, Dean of Buddhist Studies at the San Fransisco Zen Centre.