Water is Awesome: The Benefits of Water and the Brain
It’s that time of year again! Sprinklers…pools…beach…splash pads…wading pools…Summer is here! The weather is warming up, and water activities are the most requested activity! Water is cooling, hydrating and comes with many more benefits than just something fun to do. H2O is calming! Yes, water is useful to help center an overwhelmed child; its soothing qualities can help us feel more grounded. Even just listening to running water or crashing waves has been found to trigger a calming response in our brains.
The Science of Water
Have you ever noticed after you visit the ocean or even see a waterfall, you feel more collected, calmer, and cope better? Researchers have found that this is because water triggers a more meditative state when we are around water. Immersing in water reduces stress, partly by balancing the flux between the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. Some identify this as blue mind theory. Wallace J. Nichols, a marine biologist, wrote a book that focuses on the proven scientific evidence that being close to bodies of water promotes mental health and happiness: Blue Mind: The surprising science that shows how being near, in, on, or underwater can make you happier, healthier, more connected, and better at what you do.
Children Benefit From Water
Have you ever been surprised how long your child can engage in water play? Or noticed after going swimming they are more likely to be more calm and receptive to your requests? Now we know why! Water tells their brains that they are OK. Even in the chaos of the world around them, they can find their calm. How great is it to learn this at such a young age! And how awesome it is that water is usually easy to find.
When our children are struggling with feelings of overwhelm, they are most likely in a fight, flight, or freeze mode and might need some sensory support to find their calm. I occasionally had to walk my dysregulated child to the bathroom sink to run water over her hands or even fill the tub with water so she can just sit in it. Within minutes, the soothing sounds and calming touch to her skin that water offers help her regulate.
Even if playing with water is not accessible, offering your child a drink of water might even help them reap the benefits. Our bodies are 60%-78% water, and our brains are 80%! That means hydration is imperative to functioning; not only physically, but our brains need water. Even mild dehydration impacts attention, psychomotor, and regulatory functions. We cannot respond to the world around us in the most practical ways because our thoughts and perceptions become impacted if we do not stay hydrated. Studies have even found that dehydration can affect anxiety.
Play Play Play
If you have easy access to the beach, spending some time near the waves and letting your children enjoy the sensory experience of mixing sand and water will help you and your child reap the benefits previously mentioned. If not, you can even fill a baby pool or bin of water in your backyard and let your child experiment right in your backyard. This post has some great (and mostly simple) water play ideas. It does not have to be a big trip to the local pool or beach. Your shower or bathtub can help you, and your child find that calm we are all looking for.
Hopefully, you are able to make use of summer weather and spend time outside near some form of water. We understand how great it can be for our brains, encouraging not only your children to play but also you too! Let yourself dive in and feel how good it feels to let the natural qualities of water wash over you and help you center yourself as your little ones do the same.